Objective: The objective of this study was to determine the psychiatric risk factors for adolescent suicide.
Method: Sixty-seven adolescent suicide victims were compared with 67 demographically matched community controls. Psychiatric disorder was assessed in suicide victims using a psychological autopsy protocol and in controls using similar semistructured psychiatric interviews. Risk factors were quantified by use of the odds ratio (OR), that is, the relative frequency of the occurrence of a given condition in the suicides compared with the controls.
Results: The most significant psychiatric risk factors associated with adolescent suicide were major depression (OR = 27.0), bipolar mixed state (OR = 9.0), substance abuse (OR = 8.5), and conduct disorder (OR = 6.0). Substance abuse was a more significant risk factor when comorbid with affective illness than when alone (OR = 17.0 versus 3.3). The majority of depressed suicide victims had a primary affective disorder (82%). A significant minority (31%) of depressed suicide victims had been depressed less than 3 months. Previous suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, and homicidal ideation also were associated with adolescent suicide.
Conclusions: The development of effective treatments for youth who fit the above-noted risk profiles should be given high priority.