Parameters of suicidal crises vary as a function of previous suicide attempts in youth inpatients


Objectives: Although suicidal crises demand an enormous amount of clinical attention, surprisingly little empirical research has been conducted on the parameters of suicidal crises in general, and in children and adolescents in particular. On the basis of past conceptual work on the unique characteristics of multiple suicide attempters, as well as work on the effect of previous suicidal and depressive experience on later functioning, the authors developed predictions regarding the intensity and duration of suicidal crises in youths presenting to inpatient psychiatry units. Specifically, it was hypothesized that multiple attempt status would relate significantly to intensity of suicidal crises and would relate more strongly to intensity than to duration of crises. Method: Data on past suicide history and self-rated symptoms were collected for 50 suicidal patients, all of whom were available at follow-up. Results: Findings conformed to prediction: Multiple attempters experienced more intense but not more long-lasting crises; the relation between multiple attempt status and crisis intensity exceeded that between multiple attempt status and crisis duration. Conclusions: Previous suicidal experience may alter the parameters of current suicidal crises. Implications of these findings for suicide risk and clinical assessment and management are discussed.

Publication Title

Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry