Objective: Suicide rates in young people have increased during the past three decades, particularly among young males, and there is increasing public and policy concern about the issue of youth suicide in Australia and New Zealand. This paper summarises current knowledge about risk factors for suicide and suicide attempts in young people.
Method: Evidence about risk factors for suicidal behaviour in young people was gathered by review of relevant English language articles and other papers, published since the mid-1980s.
Results: The international literature yields a generally consistent account of the risk factors and life processes that lead to youth suicide and suicide attempts. Risk factor domains which may contribute to suicidal behaviour include: social and educational disadvantage; childhood and family adversity; psychopathology; individual and personal vulnerabilities; exposure to stressful life events and circumstances; and social, cultural and contextual factors. Frequently, suicidal behaviours in young people appear to be a consequence of adverse life sequences in which multiple risk factors from these domains combine to increase risk of suicidal behaviour.
Conclusions: Current research evidence suggests that the strongest risk factors for youth suicide are mental disorders (in particular, affective disorders, substance use disorders and antisocial behaviours) and a history of psychopathology, indicating that priorities for intervening to reduce youth suicidal behaviours lie with interventions focused upon the improved recognition, treatment and management of young people with mental disorders.