Thoughts about killing oneself and engaging in suicidal behavior may begin much younger than previously thought. While about one of nine youths attempt suicide by the time they graduate from high school, new findings reveal that a significant proportion make their first suicide attempt in elementary or middle school.
In a study published in the November issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, nearly 40 percent of young adults who said they had tried suicide said that they made their first attempt before entering high school.
The researchers also found that suicide attempts during childhood and adolescence were linked to higher scores of depression at the time of the attempts, validating for the first time that young adults can reliably recall when they first attempted suicide.
"Young adults who end up having chronic mental health problems show their struggles early," said James Mazza, lead author and professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington. "This study suggests that implementation of mental health programs may need to start in elementary and middle schools, and that youth in these grades are fairly good reporters of their own mental health."