The outlook for young people who attempt suicide is unfavorable over the long run, a prospective study of more than 1,000 subjects who were followed from age 3 to age 38 has found. The study results are published in JAMA Psychiatry. For example, while the young suicide attempters made up only 9% of the cohort, by the end of the follow-up study they accounted for 15% of those with metabolic syndrome, 22% of those with persistent psychiatric disorders, and 35% of those convicted of violent crimes. Moreover, they needed extensive unemployment or welfare benefits and tended to be lonely and dissatisfied with their lives, the researchers found.
“The surprising part of the study is the degree of impairment in multiple areas outside of purely mental health outcomes and their extent,” Timothy Lineberry, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic and a suicide expert who was not associated with the new study, told Psychiatric News. “For clinicians, the study results emphasize, even more than previous research has, that suicide attempts are a marker in young people of illness severity and potential future impairment.”
Long-term monitoring and health services are needed for young suicide attempters, the researchers said. Yet when Psychiatric News asked lead researcher Sidra Goldman-Mellor, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in psychiatry at Duke University, whether anyone was providing such monitoring and services, she said, “The few programs for which there is evidence of a reduction in subsequent suicidal behavior (and other negative outcomes) emphasize immediate post-attempt care, integrated mental and [general] health care provision systems, and continuity of care. The U.S. Air Force’s Integrated Delivery System Program is one such example. Another is the suicide prevention program instituted by a municipality in Norway in the 1980s…. These programs show that it can be done, but it takes a great deal of dedication and resource commitment at all levels of an organization.”