Monday, March 11, 2019

Many Preteens Who Come to ED Are at Risk of Suicide

About 30 percent of preteens aged 10 to 12 who come to the emergency department (ED) screened positive for suicide risk, according to a study published today in Hospital Pediatrics. Further, 7 percent of those who screened positive were admitted for a nonpsychiatric medical emergency.

These findings highlight “the importance of screening all preteen patients in the ED for suicide risk regardless of their presenting complaint,” wrote Lisa Horowitz, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the National Institute of Mental Health and colleagues.

The researchers assessed data from a large suicide-screening study of youth aged 10 to 21 who came to the ED at one of three urban pediatric hospitals (Children’s National in Washington D.C., Boston Children’s Hospital, and Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio) between 2008 and 2011. Participants were screened with two suicidal-behavior questionnaires: the four-item Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) and the 15-item Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire-Junior (SIQ-Jr).

Of the 524 patients in the study, 79 were between the ages of 10 and 12. Forty-two of the 79 preteens were admitted to the ED for a medical emergency such as a back injury or chest pain, and 37 were admitted for a psychiatric emergency such as depression or violent behavior.

In total, 23 of the 79 preteens (29.1%) screened positive for suicide risk on the ASQ and/or SIQ-Jr. This included 20 of the 37 patients (54.1%) who had a psychiatric emergency and three of the 42 patients (7.1%) with a medical emergency. Fourteen of the 79 preteens (17.7%)—including several 10-year-olds—reported a previous suicide attempt.

“This study shows that children as young as 10 who show up in the emergency department may be thinking about suicide, and that screening all preteens—regardless of their presenting symptoms—may save lives,” said Maryland Pao, M.D., an author on the paper, in a press statement. “Otherwise, they may pass through our medical systems undetected.”

For related information, see “Emergency Department Intervention May Reduce Suicide Attempts in At-Risk Patients.”

(Image: iStock/MJFelt)


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