Self-esteem deficits and suicidal tendencies among adolescents

J C Overholser, D M Adams, K L Lehnert, D C Brinkman
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 1995, 34 (7): 919-28

OBJECTIVE: Self-esteem can play an important role in suicidal tendencies among adolescents. The present study was designed to examine the relationship between self-esteem deficits and suicidal tendencies in 254 adolescent psychiatric inpatients and 288 high school students.

METHOD: The direct relationship between self-esteem and suicidal tendencies was examined by assessing suicidal ideation and history of suicide attempts. An indirect relationship between self-esteem and suicidality was examined by assessing depression and hopelessness.

RESULTS: Differences were found across gender and hospitalization status, with males reporting higher self-esteem than females and high school students scoring higher in self-esteem than psychiatric inpatients. However, correlations among variables remained similar across gender and hospitalization status. Thus, low self-esteem was related to higher levels of depression, hopelessness, suicidal ideation, and an increased likelihood of having previously attempted suicide. Furthermore, self-esteem added to the understanding of suicidal ideation beyond what could be explained by depression and hopelessness.

CONCLUSIONS: Low self-esteem was closely related to feelings of depression, hopelessness, and suicidal tendencies. Assessment of adolescents should include an evaluation of self-esteem, and therapy should attempt to address any self-esteem deficits.

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