Year: 2022 Source: School Mental Health. (2022). Published online 28 May 2022. SIEC No: 20220650

The aim of this study was to identify independent risk and protective factors associated with self-reported suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STB) among young adolescents by examining self-report data on mental health, substance abuse, violence involvement, social and economic challenges and supports, physical health and demographics in relation to STB. Data from nearly 27,000 students who completed the 2018-19 Maryland Middle School Youth Risk Behavior Survey/Youth Tobacco Survey (YRBS/YTS) were used to identify independent risk and protective factors associated with STB among middle school students (grades 6–8; ages 11-14). Twenty-three percent of students reported lifetime suicidal ideation and nine percent reported lifetime attempt(s). Independent risk factors associated with STB include depression, substance abuse or misuse, violence involvement, bullying victimization at school or electronically, sexual activity, and sleep deprivation. Protective factors include having an adult outside of school to confide in and feeling that teachers care and provide encouragement. Interactive effects by gender and/or race/ethnicity were observed for some factors in relation to STB. These results suggest that evidence-based programs and policies at the universal and selective/indicated levels in school settings are needed and should be introduced earlier on to address the widespread prevalence of STB in young adolescents. Program planners should take into consideration social, cultural and language needs when implementing and developing intervention strategies.