Suicide Assessment in Troubled Teen Girls and Boys:
For those of us who work in therapeutic boarding schools, accurately assessing suicidality of troubled teens is of vital importance. In a recent study reported in the Journal of Adolescence (2009, 32, 619-631) and summarized in Clinician’s Research Digest (July, 2009, Vol 27, 7), adolescent suicidality was best predicted through information obtained from parents. The report, Suicidal Assessment in Adolescents: Which Technique is the Most Useful? found that having a mood disorder was a strong indicator of suicidality. Parents were especially helpful informants during the assessment process, whereas sibling reports were less predictive. Additionally, observer observations, adolescent reported delinquency and diagnosis of conduct disorder did not predict suicidality.
The Clinician’s Research Digest concluded that interviewing adolescents and their parents when conducting suicide assessments of troubled teens, would be the most useful method of obtaining infromation predictive of suicidality. The information from parents was the most predictive of future suicidality whereas adolescent reports where primarily associated with only current ideations, plans and attempts. The study concluded that suicide assessment should be incorporated into standard clinical interviews of adolescents.
At the therapeutic boarding school that I work at, we have found the same to be true. We gather detailed information from parents throughout the admissions review process and then conduct a suicide assessment after students enroll. Integrating the information from parents with the face-to-face interview with the teen, has given us the best opportunity to predict level of risk which gives us an opportunity to intervene to best help the troubled teen.
Parents – trust your instincts and be sure to share what you know and suspect with any therapist or clinician working with your son or daughter. It could save his or her life.