Where are they now? Longitudinal follow-up and prognosis of adolescent suicide attempters
Levi-Belz, Y., Krispin, O., Galilee, G., Bodner, E., & Apter, A.
Background: While a history of suicide attempts has been identified as the most powerful risk factor among adults, it is not clear if this is also true for the adolescent population. Our aim was to examine the differences between attempters and nonattempters in the years following a documented suicide attempt and to investigate the adolescents’ prognosis in terms of suicidal behavior and adjustment.
Method: Military records at induction and during active military service were used to compare 105 adolescent suicide attempters with 105 matched controls. All were rated on cognitive/educational performance and psychosocial adaptation, psychological health diagnoses, and performance during their military service.
Results: Suicide attempters had higher school dropout rates and lower scores on educational indicators. They registered more incidents of disciplinary and adjustment problems in the military. However, the overall prognosis of the suicide attempters appeared surprisingly good. No significant differences were found between the groups in suicide risk or in behavior in their military service. Limitations: Data were derived from the computerized records and no direct interviews were conducted with the participants.
Conclusion: Attempted suicide in adolescence appears to be different in nature from attempted suicide in adulthood, and can be viewed as an indicator of social distress rather than as major risk factor of completed suicide. Implications in terms of intervention and prevention are discussed.