Year: 2021 Source: Journal of Psychiatric Research. (2021). 140, 529-532. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2021.06.027. SIEC No: 20210498

Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the role of peer influence on adolescent suicidal ideation and attempts within youth seeking emergency care or outpatient mental health services. We examined whether affiliation with peers reporting suicidal thoughts/behaviors was associated with an adolescent’s own suicidal ideation and/or suicide attempt beyond individual risk factors.

Methods: One hundred and eighteen adolescents, ages 13-18, were recruited from the emergency department and outpatient mental health clinics at a large, metropolitan children’s hospital. Adolescents with suicidal ideation in the past six months (ideators, n=19) and with a suicide attempt in the past year (attempters, n=40) were matched with controls with no history of ideation or attempt on age (±1 year), sex, and race. Adolescents and parents completed semi-structured interviews and self-report questionnaires to examine individual and peer associated risk factors.

Results: Both ideators and attempters were more likely to affiliate with peers with suicidal behavior compared to their matched controls. However, affiliation with suicidal peers was only associated with attempter group status after controlling for individual risk factors.

Conclusion: Affiliation with peers reporting suicidal thoughts/behaviors was linked to an adolescent’s own history of suicide attempt. Through understanding peer affiliation, peers may be an important resource for both identifying and preventing youth suicidal behavior. Evidence-based programs that focus and utilize peer influence may be invaluable for prevention efforts.