Adolescent Suicide-Understanding Unique Risks and Opportunities for Trauma Centers to Recognize, Intervene, and Prevent a Leading Cause of Death

Curr Trauma Rep. 2022;8(2):41-53. doi: 10.1007/s40719-022-00223-7. Epub 2022 Apr 2.


Purpose of review: This provides up-to-date epidemiology of adolescent suicide and risk factors for suicide and highlights the overlap of risks for suicide and injury. It reviews signs and symptoms, and the up-to-date evidence on screening for depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicide, substance abuse, and lethal means, and offers strategies of implementation in trauma centers.

Recent findings: The incidence of adolescent suicide has continued to rise in the USA to 6.5 per 100,000, with notable racial disparities. The risk factors are complex, but many pre-existing risk factors and sequela after injury such as exposures to violence, suicidal behaviors, substance abuse, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and specific injuries including traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury have further emerged as risks. Studies show rates of suicidality as high as 30% in the acute care setting. There are short screening instruments that can be used to universally screen for depression and suicidality in adolescent trauma patients. Step-up models of care for PTSD are promising to increase screening and services after injury. Lethal means counseling, secure firearm storage practices, and firearm safety policies can reduce the risk of suicide.

Summary: Suicide is the second leading cause of death in US adolescents, and trauma patients have significant risk factors for mental illness and suicidality before and after injury. Trauma centers should strongly consider screening adolescents, establish strategies for mental health support and referrals, and provide lethal means counseling to help prevent suicide.

Keywords: Adolescent suicide; Mental illness in traumatic injury; Pediatric firearm injury; Pediatric trauma; Post-traumatic stress disorder; Suicide prevention.

Publication types

  • Review