[Suicide attempts by young adolescents: epidemiological characteristics of 517 15-year-old or younger adolescents admitted in French emergency departments]

P Giraud, C Fortanier, G Fabre, J Ghariani, Y Guillermain, N Rouviere, B Chabrol, J-L Jouve, M-C Simeoni
Archives de Pédiatrie: Organe Officiel de la Sociéte Française de Pédiatrie 2013, 20 (6): 608-15
Adolescents who attempt suicide are a major concern. A growing body of literature seeks to explain this phenomenon and to identify its predictive factors, but relatively little information is available and children and adolescents under 15 years of age who present to general hospitals because of a suicide attempt. This study aimed to describe the demographic, social, medical, and psychological characteristics of a large sample of 517 French adolescents aged not more than 15 years 3 months. A second purpose was to measure observance of psychological care in a 1-year follow-up. Third, we aimed to document the reattempt rate during the follow-up in this population of young adolescents. Following the French official recommendations, a systematic 72-h hospitalization as well as a somatic, social, and psychological assessment was proposed to every suicide attempter after his or her admission to the emergency department. The adolescent was followed for 1 year after the suicide attempt, called the index episode. This follow-up was organized by two physicians, one of whom was not associated with the care of any of the patients. It consisted in seeking regular information as well as organization and/or optimization of the patient's psychological care, which was delivered in dedicated structures for adolescents, in outpatient care by a psychiatrist, or in an adolescent psychiatric inpatient care unit. In case of a repeated suicide attempt or persistence of alarming symptoms, this follow-up was prolonged for 1 more year. Patient data were compiled by experienced clinicians during initial assessment and alongside the 1-year follow-up through patient self-reports, but also through interviews with informants (family members, social professionals) and clinical sources (general practitioner, psychiatrist, etc.). The areas covered were the characteristics of the index episode, those of the population at the time of the index episode, as well as those of the 1-year follow-up including observance to the care and potential repetition of the suicide attempt. The mean age was 14 years with a minimum of 7 years 9 months. The vast majority of the population was female (86.1%), less than one-third lived with both parents, and 27% had academic problems. The most frequent means of suicide attempt was medication (83.9%), 92.6% of adolescents were hospitalized following the index episode, only 7.5% of them were admitted to adolescent psychiatric unit inpatient care following the initial care. Psychiatric evaluation was documented for 93.3% of the adolescents. Half (n=222) had at least one symptom of a psychiatric disorder. One-year follow-up data were available for 394 adolescents: 40 had not yet completed the year and 83 were lost to follow-up. Among the analyzable population of 391 adolescents, 35.3% were optimally observant of the care proposed and 21.4% did not observe treatment. Fifty-nine youths (15%) were referred to the hospital because of a repeated suicide attempt. Two of the patients who repeated the suicide attempt within the year had died. The findings from this study are informative with regard to prevention and intervention efforts with suicidal young and very young adolescents. First, repetition of the suicide attempt in young adolescents is not rare since nearly 15% of the cohort were repeaters within the year following the index episode. Nevertheless, intensive care and follow-up resulting in good attendance appeared to have a positive impact on the repetition of the suicide attempt.

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