Кesearcher identifies factors to help parents and professionals recognize teens in distress

October 4, 2012

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now, a University of Missouri public health expert has identified factors that will help parents, medical professionals and educators recognize teens at risk for self injury and suicide.

"For many young people, suicide represents an escape from unbearable situations—problems that seem impossible to solve or that feel overwhelming," said Lindsay Taliaferro, an assistant professor of health sciences at MU. "Adults can help these teens dissect their problems, help them develop healthful coping strategies, and facilitate access to so their problems don't seem insurmountable."

Taliaferro analyzed data from the 2007 Minnesota Student Survey to pinpoint factors associated with self injury. More than 60,000 Minnesota completed the survey that assessed their . Of those who completed the survey, more than 4,000 teens (roughly the same size as the student bodies at two large high schools) reported injuring themselves in the past year. Nearly half of those who reported self injury also had attempted suicide.

"Of the teens who engaged in non-suicidal self injury, hopelessness was a prominent factor that differentiated those who attempted suicide from those who did not have a history of ," Taliaferro said.

Parents, teachers and medical professionals sometimes avoid talking to teens about because they aren't sure how to help, Taliaferro said.

"Adults don't need to solve all the teens' problems, but they should let the teens know they have safe persons they can talk to," Taliaferro said. "Sometimes just talking about their feelings allows young people to articulate what they're going through and to feel understood, which can provide comfort."

Taliaferro recommends that parents strengthen connections with their teens and help foster connections between their children and other positive adult influences.

"One of the most important protective factors against teens engaging in self injury was parent connectedness, and, for females, connections with other prosocial adults also were associated with reduced likelihood of engaging in ," Taliaferro said. "Parents are extremely valuable influences in their children's lives."

Although parents play influential roles in teens' lives, Taliaferro said mental health professionals are the best resources for troubled teens. Medical professionals, such as primary care physicians, can also serve crucial roles by identifying teens who self injure and referring them to community support systems and mental health specialists before their behaviors escalate, Taliaferro said.

The Department of Health Sciences is part of the MU School of Health Professions. Taliaferro's study, "Factors Distinguishing Youth Who Report Self-Injurious Behavior: A Population-Based Sample," was published in Academic Pediatrics. She collaborated with researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the University of Minnesota and the Pennsylvania State University.

Explore further: Program helps high school students overcome depression and thoughts of suicide

Related Stories

Program helps high school students overcome depression and thoughts of suicide

August 12, 2011
A suicide prevention program developed at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center has significantly helped teens overcome depression and thoughts of suicide, according to a new study.

Study finds over 70 percent of suicidal teens don't get the mental health services they need

September 14, 2011
Suicidal teens are not likely to get the mental healthcare they need. This is according to a team of researchers at Seattle Children's Research Institute, the University of Washington (UW), and Group Health Research Institute. ...

Interactive website helps parents keep teen drivers safe

May 22, 2012
Nearly 30,000 parents around the state are using a free, interactive web resource that provides information and tools to help parents protect their teens while they gain experience driving without adult supervision.

Teen well-being spills over into young adult health

July 19, 2011
A new study finds that teens with a positive sense of well-being are more likely to report being healthy in young adulthood. The research suggests this is not just because teenagers who feel good about themselves are healthy ...

Recommended for you

Older drivers adapt their thinking to improve road hazard detection

September 26, 2017
A recent study finds that older drivers showed adaptive responses according to the amount of traffic in a driving scene when identifying road hazards. Although younger drivers are faster and more accurate at identifying driving ...

80 percent of activity tracker users stick with the devices for at least six months

September 26, 2017
Use of activity trackers, such as wearable devices and smartphone apps, is on the rise, and a new study shows that 80 percent of users stuck with the device for at least six months. Though the gadgets may help motivate users ...

Study finds being in a good mood for your flu jab boosts its effectiveness

September 25, 2017
New research by a team of health experts at the University of Nottingham has found evidence that being in a positive mood on the day of your flu jab can increase its protective effect.

New tool demonstrates high cost of lack of sleep in the workplace

September 25, 2017
Sleep disorders and sleep deficiency are hidden costs that affect employers across America. Seventy percent of Americans admit that they routinely get insufficient sleep, and 30 percent of U.S. workers and 44 percent of night ...

Maternal diet could affect kids' brain reward circuitry

September 25, 2017
Researchers in France found that rats who ate a junk food diet during pregnancy had heavier pups that strongly preferred the taste of fat straight after weaning. While a balanced diet in childhood seemed to reduce the pups' ...

Exercise can make cells healthier, promoting longer life, study finds

September 22, 2017
Whether it's running, walking, cycling, swimming or rowing, it's been well-known since ancient times that doing some form of aerobic exercise is essential to good health and well-being. You can lose weight, sleep better, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.