Year: 2021 Source: Child and Adolescent Mental Health. (2021). Published online 28 March 2021. doi: 10.1111/camh.12454. SIEC No: 20210284

Background: Despite alarming increases in suicide deaths among preadolescent children, knowledge of the precipitants of suicide risk and the characteristics of children who seek treatment for suicidality is limited. This study’s purpose is to describe children (ages 6-12) hospitalized for suicide-related concerns and compare demographic and diagnostic differences between children and adolescent (ages 13-18) patients.

Methods: This retrospective study analyzed medical records of 502 children and adolescents ages 6-18 admitted for suicide-related risk to one psychiatric inpatient hospital in southeastern United States between 2015 and 2018.

Results: Patients were predominantly White (63.5%), female (64.5%), and non-Hispanic/Latino (85.1%). We conducted descriptive analyses and a series of logistic regressions comparing children and adolescents with data extracted from discharge summaries, (i.e. primary reasons for admission, environmental stressors, and diagnostic categories). Common environmental stressors included school (63.2%) and family (60.7%), and the most common diagnosis included depressive disorders. Compared to adolescents, children were more likely to be Black (OR = 1.99), male (OR = 1.94), and receive neurodevelopmental disorder (aOR = 3.0) or trauma and stress-related disorder (aOR = 2.6) diagnoses, but less likely to be diagnosed with a depressive disorder (aOR = 0.4). Across both age-groups, Black patients were more likely to be diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders and less likely to receive internalizing disorder diagnoses.

Conclusions: Characteristics of children hospitalized for suicide-related risk are relatively similar to characteristics of children dying by suicide. Compared to adolescents, hospitalized children are more likely to be Black, male, and have a neurodevelopmental disorder diagnosis. Proactively identifying and providing strengths-based supports for Black boys and families appear critical for suicide prevention in children.