Role of social support in adolescent suicidal ideation and suicide attempts

Adam Bryant Miller, Christianne Esposito-Smythers, Richard N Leichtweis
Journal of Adolescent Health: Official Publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine 2015, 56 (3): 286-92

PURPOSE: The present study examined the relative contributions of perceptions of social support from parents, close friends, and school on current suicidal ideation (SI) and suicide attempt (SA) history in a clinical sample of adolescents.

METHODS: Participants were 143 adolescents (64% female; 81% white; range, 12-18 years; M = 15.38; standard deviation = 1.43) admitted to a partial hospitalization program. Data were collected with well-validated assessments and a structured clinical interview. Main and interactive effects of perceptions of social support on SI were tested with linear regression. Main and interactive effects of social support on the odds of SA were tested with logistic regression.

RESULTS: Results from the linear regression analysis revealed that perceptions of lower school support independently predicted greater severity of SI, accounting for parent and close friend support. Further, the relationship between lower perceived school support and SI was the strongest among those who perceived lower versus higher parental support. Results from the logistic regression analysis revealed that perceptions of lower parental support independently predicted SA history, accounting for school and close friend support. Further, those who perceived lower support from school and close friends reported the greatest odds of an SA history.

CONCLUSIONS: Results address a significant gap in the social support and suicide literature by demonstrating that perceptions of parent and school support are relatively more important than peer support in understanding suicidal thoughts and history of suicidal behavior. Results suggest that improving social support across these domains may be important in suicide prevention efforts.

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