Specific anxiety and depression symptoms are risk factors for the onset of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in youth
Grant, J.B., Batterham, P.J., McCallum, S.M., Werner-Seidler, A. & Calear, A.L.
Background: Suicidality research has typically focused on affective disorders to identify at-risk youth. Investigating the predictive role of individual symptoms, particularly anxiety symptoms, may allow for preventative targeting of additional risk factors for suicidal ideation and attempts. Methods: This analysis used the Sources of Strength Australia project dataset, a cluster randomised controlled trial which assessed the impact of a schools-based intervention for youth help-seeking over 18 months (Calear et al., 2022). Symptoms of anxiety, depression and distress at baseline were used to predict the onset of suicidal ideation, planning for suicide and suicide attempts at 18 months. Results: Worry, lack of sleep and anxiety interfering with everyday activities at baseline predicted new onset of suicidal ideation 18 months later. Worry about the future and past, reduced appetite and a belief that life wasn't worth living were risk factors for later suicide plans and attempts. Total scale scores on the scales were typically poor predictors of onset of suicidal behaviours. Limitations: Analyses were impacted by dropouts over the 18 month study period and restricted further investigation into potential behaviour transition trajectories. Conclusions: These findings identify individual symptom profiles associated with later onset of suicidal behaviour. Broadening the focus beyond depression and hopelessness to incorporate anxiety, worry and reduced sleep as risk factors for suicidality is important for public health and clinical settings.