About one in 25 U.S. teens has attempted suicide, and one in eight has thought about it, according to a national study based on interviews with thousands of teenagers.
Researchers, whose findings appeared in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, said the figures suggest that the teenage years are an especially vulnerable time.
"What adults say is, the highest risk time for first starting to think about suicide is in adolescence," said Matthew Nock, a psychologist who worked on the study at Harvard University.
The results are based on in-person interviews of close to 6,500 teens in the United States and questionnaires filled out by their parents. Along with asking youths about their suicidal thinking, plans and attempts, interviewers also determined which teens fit the bill for a range of mental disorders.
Just over 12 percent of the teens had thought about suicide. Four percent had made a suicide plan and four percent had attempted suicide.
Nock and his colleagues found that almost all teens who thought about or attempted suicide had a mental disorder, including depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or problems with drug or alcohol abuse.
More than half of the youths were already in treatment when they reported suicidal behavior, which Nock said was both encouraging and disturbing.