Year: 2022 Source: Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. (2021), 51(6), 1148-1158. SIEC No: 20221205

This study examines suicidal ideation and behavior of youth in the 3 months following their initial diversion appointment in the juvenile justice system.
Participants were 99 adolescents (72.7% female; 65% racial minority) between the ages of 12 and 18 (Mage = 15.06, SD = 1.35) and a parent/caregiver (80% female; 54% racial minority; Mage = 42.7 years, SD = 8.9 years). Participants were eligible if they endorsed two or more suicide items on a mental health screener (MAYSI-2) and were able to be contacted 3 months following initial court appointment. Youth and parent/caregiver responded to questionnaires assessing SI/SA, psychiatric symptoms, treatment motivation and engagement.
Three months post-initial court appointment, more than half of youth (55.5%) continued to flag on the Suicide Ideation subscale of the MAYSI-2, though mean scores decreased from baseline to 3-months (t[97] = 5.74, p < 0.000, 95% CI [−0.79, 1.62] Cohen’s d = 0.77). There were no significant differences in parent/youth treatment motivation or engagement regardless of SI at 3 months.
Persistence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors beyond initial legal involvement highlights the importance of targeted suicide prevention interventions (beyond screening and referral to treatment) with justice-involved youth, even at first court contact.