Objective: We conducted a chart review to identify postsecondary students and nonstudents in the same age range who presented to the emergency department following a suicide attempt to (1) compare demographic characteristics and suicide risk factors and (2) determine factors associated with more serious attempts requiring hospitalizations.
Method: The study was conducted in 1 tertiary trauma hospital and 1 community hospital affiliated with McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, between January 1, 2009, and March 31, 2010. Charts of patients with potential suicide attempts were identified from medical records using ICD-10 codes that indicated traumatic injury, intentional self-harm, poisoning, and psychiatric or perception/cognition disorders and from the emergency department triage file using keywords that indicated suicidality or self-harm at presentation.
Results: In multivariable logistic regression models (odds ratio, 95% CI), students were younger (per 5-year increase: 0.22, 0.12-0.41), less likely to be born in Canada (0.17, 0.06-0.44), and more likely to use less violent methods (laceration, poisoning, other, multiple methods) versus more violent methods (collision, jump, fire burns, firearm, hanging) in their attempt. Fewer students had a history of substance abuse (0.12, 0.02-0.94) but were not different from nonstudents on history of other mental disorders. Less students attempted suicide in the winter/spring (January-April) versus fall (September-December) semester (0.32, 0.11-0.91). Students who attempted suicide were more likely to have family/social support. Those who attempted suicide in the previous year were more likely to require hospitalization for their current suicide attempt.
Conclusions: Knowledge of specific factors associated with suicide attempts in young people can help inform and guide suicide prevention efforts in both academic and community settings. Specific to the findings of this study regarding the method of suicide attempt used, for example, limiting access to dangerous substances or large quantities of medications may help prevent or reduce suicide attempts in this population.