Life stress and suicide in adolescents
Stewart, J.G., Shields, G.S., Esposito, E.C., Cosby, E.A., Allen, N.B., Slavich, G.M., & Auerbach, R.P.
Stress exposure is central to theories of suicide. To advance understanding of the relation between stress and suicide, we examined whether specific, theoretically-pertinent life stressors were differentially related to suicidal thinking versus suicidal behaviors among hospitalized adolescents. Participants were 197 (144 female) adolescents aged 13 to 19 years old (M = 15.61, SD = 1.48) recruited from an acute residential psychiatric treatment program. Participants were categorized into mutually exclusive groups: psychiatric controls (n = 38) with no lifetime history of suicide ideation or suicide attempts, suicide ideators (n = 99) with current ideation and no lifetime attempts, and suicide attempters (n = 60) with a lifetime history of suicide ideation and at least one attempt in the past month. Adolescents completed the Stress and Adversity Inventory for Adolescents (Adolescent STRAIN), which assessed life events and chronic difficulties occurring in five social-psychological categories: Interpersonal Loss, Physical Danger, Humiliation, Entrapment, and Role Change/Disruption. Additionally, they completed a structured interview and symptom questionnaires to capture concurrent psychopathology. Controlling for demographic and clinical covariates, only Interpersonal Loss events distinguished attempters from psychiatric controls (OR = 2.27) and ideators (OR = 1.49); no events or difficulties differentiated ideators from controls. These effects persisted when analyses were restricted to single attempters and when events following the most recent attempt were excluded. The findings elucidate potential social-environmental triggers of suicide. Ultimately, this may improve the identification of ideators most likely to make an attempt, enabling the deployment of targeted early interventions.