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Does coping reduce suicidal urges in everyday life? Evidence from a daily diary study of adolescent inpatients.

BACKGROUND: Youth suicide has been increasing at an alarming rate. Identifying how youth at risk for suicide cope with daily distress and suicidal thoughts could inform prevention and intervention efforts. We investigated the relationship between previous-day coping and next-day suicidal urge intensity in a high-risk adolescent sample for a 4-week period. We also investigated the influence of adolescents' average coping levels, over 4 weeks, on daily severity of suicidal urges.

METHODS: A total of 78 adolescents completed daily diaries after psychiatric hospitalization (n = 1621 observations). Each day, adolescents reported their use of specific coping strategies, overall coping helpfulness, and intensity of suicidal urges.

RESULTS: Greater professional support seeking from providers/crisis lines and perceptions of coping helpfulness on the previous day were associated with lower next-day suicidal urges. Adolescents who reported greater average use of cognitive strategies, personal support seeking from family/friends, and higher average perceptions of coping helpfulness, relative to others, had lower daily suicidal urges. Noncognitive strategy use was not related to daily suicidal urge intensity.

CONCLUSION: Findings point to the benefit of intervention efforts focusing on strengthening personal and professional supportive relationships, assisting youth with developing a broader coping repertoire, and working with adolescents to identify strategies they perceive to be helpful.

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