What makes psychotic teens more at risk for suicide than other groups with psychosis?

April 24, 2014, Case Western Reserve University

Suicide is a general risk for people with psychosis. According to the Journal of Psychiatry, 20 percent to 40 percent of those diagnosed with psychosis attempt suicide, and up to 10 percent succeed.

And teens with psychotic symptoms are nearly 70 times more likely to attempt than adolescents in the general population, according to a 2013 study in JAMA Psychiatry.

But what contributes to such high numbers?

Jane Timmons-Mitchell, PhD, from Case Western Reserve University's social work school, and Tatiana Falcone, MD, from the Cleveland Clinic, reviewed studies of teenagers with psychosis to better understand why they are more at risk for suicide than other groups similarly diagnosed.

Timmons-Mitchell, senior research associate at the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, said they found that teens are especially at risk within the first six months of being diagnosed with a psychiatric problem.

So any delay between diagnosis and treatment—usually with a combination of therapy and medication—adds to the risk for teens struggling with a mental illness, she said. The stigma of the diagnosis often delays parents from seeking treatment.

And a 2011 Schizophrenia Research literature review found that the more intelligent the teen, the greater the suicidal risk than those less cognizant about what is happening to them. Those with a higher intelligence also had greater abilities to hide their suicide attempts.

Most at risk, generally, are people with psychoses that cause them to lose touch with reality, suffer from hysteria and delusions and sound incoherent when talking.

Such symptoms in teens between 15 and 18 years old can begin abruptly or be mistaken for substance abuse problems or some diseases—such as brain illnesses—that produce drastic behavioral changes, Timmons-Mitchell said.

Parents, teachers, social workers and others need to be vigilant, urged Timmons-Mitchell, and to err on the side of concern by seeking help for a teen they believe may be suicidal. In their Psychiatric Times article, "Psychosis and Suicidality in Adolescents," Timmons-Mitchell and Falcone offer warning signs that parents and professionals should watch for:

  • Abrupt shifts to abnormal behavior.
  • Talking about things that don't make sense.
  • Spikes in anger that go beyond normal teen rebellion and disagreements with family members or teachers.
  • Speaking about suicide or death and dying.
  • Reports from school about strange behavior changes.

By keeping parents and professionals aware of the warning signs, adolescent suicide attempts have declined significantly in Ohio (11 to 6.2 percent) over the past 10 years, according to the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Alcohol services.

According to Timmons-Mitchell, who also is an associate clinical professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Case Western Reserve's School of Medicine, attributes it to efforts and programs in the Ohio Suicide Plan, written by the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation. Timmons-Mitchell serves as an evaluator of the program that has been adopted as a national model for .

Explore further: Tool kit answers mental health and epilepsy questions for parents

Related Stories

Tool kit answers mental health and epilepsy questions for parents

August 12, 2013
Parents of children with epilepsy and mental health problems have a new go-to resource.

Adopted teens more likely to attempt suicide, study finds

September 9, 2013
(HealthDay)—Teenagers who were adopted may be at greater risk of a suicide attempt than kids raised by their biological parents, a new study suggests.

Many U.S. teens at risk for suicide despite treatment

January 9, 2013
(HealthDay)—A new study casts doubt on the value of current professional treatments for teens who struggle with mental disorders and thoughts of suicide.

Researchers outline effective strategies to prevent teen depression and suicide

November 15, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Untreated depression is one of the leading causes of teen suicide, and signs of depression can also be a warning that a teen is contemplating suicide. In an article published this week in the quarterly ...

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.

Recommended for you

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

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.