Introduction: The aim of this study is to measure the prevalence of suicidal ideation and thoughts of death in elementary school children in a European survey and to determine the associated socio-demographic and clinical factors.
Methods: Data refer to children aged 6-12 (N=7062) from Italy, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Germany, and the Netherlands randomly selected in primary schools. Suicidal thoughts and death ideation were measured using a computerized pictorial diagnostic tool from the Dominic Interactive (DI) completed by the children. The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) was administrated to teachers and parents along with a socio-demographic questionnaire.
Results: Suicidal ideation was present in 16.96% of the sample (from 9.9 in Italy to 26.84 in Germany), death thoughts by 21.93% (from 7.71% in Italy to 32.78 in Germany). SI and DT were more frequent in single-parent families and large families. Externalizing disorders were strongly correlated with SI and DT after controlling for other factors and this was true for internalizing disorders only when reported by the children.
Conclusion: Recognizing suicidal ideation in young children may be recommended as part of preventive strategies such as screening in the context of the presence of any mental health problems whether externalizing or internalizing.