(HealthDay News) – Suicidal behaviors are common in U.S. teens, primarily in those already seeking treatment for pre-existing mental disorders, according to a study published online Jan. 9 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Matthew K. Nock, PhD, from Harvard University in Boston, and colleagues assessed information gathered from face-to-face interviews with 6,483 adolescents (aged 13–18 years) and their parents participating in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A).

The researchers found that the estimated lifetime prevalences of suicide ideation, plans, and attempts among the respondents were 12.1%, 4%, and 4.1%, respectively. Lifetime criteria for at least one Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition mental disorder assessed in the survey were met by the vast majority of adolescents with these behaviors. Elevated odds of subsequent suicidal behaviors were predicted by fear/anger, distress, disruptive behavior, and substance disorders. Suicide ideation was most consistently significantly associated with these disorders, although a number of disorders were also predictors of plans and both planned and unplanned attempts among ideators.  More than 80% of suicidal adolescents received some form of mental health treatment, with treatment starting prior to onset of suicidal behaviors in >55% of cases.

“Suicidal behaviors are common among U.S. adolescents, with rates that approach those of adults,” Nock and colleagues conclude.

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry, including companies that contributed unrestricted educational grants to the funding of the NCS-A.

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