In an updated clinical report addressing adolescent suicide risk, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers guidance to assess the possibility of suicide, reduce risks and connect adolescents and their families with mental health resources.
The AAP, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Children's Hospital Association recently declared a national
state of emergency in children's mental health. This was partly based on a significant increase in suicides among youth 10 to 24 years old. During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, emergency department visits for suicide attempts further increased among adolescents 12 to 17 years of age (50.6% higher in girls and 3.7% higher for boys).
Assessing suicide risk factors in adolescents
"Suicide is complex but often preventable," said Janet Lee, MD, FAAP, one of the authors of the report, "Suicide and Suicide Risk in Adolescents."
"Because of their long-term relationships with teens and their families, pediatricians and other pediatric health care providers are in a unique position to have open communication with young people to discuss mental health and suicidality," Dr. Lee said.
"This clinical report supports pediatricians in the work they do every day around suicide prevention by helping them recognize risk factors and highlighting evidence-based interventions," Dr. Lee said.
In the clinical report, the AAP recommends pediatricians and health professionals screen for suicidal ideation and risk factors of suicide. The AAP recommends a range of interventions, including:
Personalize coping strategies for patients such as religious activities and group exercise
Gauge potential access to deadly devices, particularly firearms, during preventive care visits and provide counseling to decrease or eliminate access
Engage parents and families in suicide prevention and treatment efforts such as sleep hygiene, community engagement
Explore school-based interventions that educate students and staff on recognizing signs of depression
Suicide risk screening, safety assessment & next steps
The updated clinical report, which will be published in the January 2024 issue of Pediatrics, highlights the online
Blueprint for Youth Suicide Prevention.
The Blueprint serves as a resource for health care providers to support adolescent patients who may be at risk for suicide. It outlines a 3-tiered pathway that begins with a brief screen, lasting no more than one minute.
Next is a brief suicide safety assessment for anyone who screens positive. It evaluates the frequency of suicidal thoughts, plans, mental health symptoms and suicide history. The final component is to identify the next steps for care.
Clinical reports created by AAP are written by medical experts. They reflect the latest evidence in the field, and go through several rounds of peer review before being approved by the AAP Board of Directors.