Suicide Ideation, Attempts Higher in Children With Autism

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Children with autism have a 28-times greater rate of suicide ideation and suicide attempts than reported for typical children.

(HealthDay News) – Children with autism have much higher rates of suicide ideation and suicide attempts than typical children, according to a study published in the January issue of Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Susan Dickerson Mayes, PhD, from the Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, and colleagues determined the risk factors for and the frequency of suicide ideation and attempts in 791 children with autism (aged 1–16 years), 35 depressed children without autism, and 186 typical children.

The researchers found that suicide ideation or attempts were rated as sometimes to very often a problem by 14% of mothers of children with autism, a rate 28 times greater than reported for typical children (0.5%) but lower than the rate reported for depressed children (43%). Four demographic variables: age ≥10 years, Black or Hispanic, lower socioeconomic status, and male sex were significant risk factors of suicide ideation or attempts among children with autism. Suicide ideation or attempts were experienced by 71% of children who had all four demographic risk factors. Depression, behavior problems, and being teased were the comorbid psychological problems most highly predictive of suicide ideation or attempts, with nearly half of children with these problems reporting suicide ideation or attempts.

“All children with autism should be screened for suicide ideation or attempts because ideation and attempts in autism are significantly higher than the norm and are present across the spectrum,” write the authors.

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