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Differentiating Suicide Ideators from Attempters: Violence—A Research Note


  • Steven Stack PhD

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Suicide Research and the Department of Psychiatry & Criminology, Wayne State University, Troy, MI, USA
    2. Psychiatry & Criminology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA
    • Address correspondence to S. Stack, Department of Criminology, 3305 Faculty Administration Bldg., Wayne State University, Troy, MI 48202; E-mail:

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Which factors distinguish suicide attempters from suicide ideators is a relatively neglected question in suicidology. Data from the 2001 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, encompassing 1,439 youth suicide ideators and 1,097 attempters, was used to explore which factors best differentiate suicide attempters from ideators, with a focus on violence involvement. Measures of violence include the contexts of fights, dating, and weapons carrying. Controls were incorporated for psychiatric disorders, risky sexual behavior, school integration, and demographics. Controlling for the other variables, violence differentiated attempts from ideation: fighting (OR = 2.18) and weapon carrying (OR = 1.13). Psychiatric factors that predicted attempts over ideation included major depression (OR = 1.86), use of cocaine (OR = 2.34), and having a suicide plan (OR = 2.69), while demographic factors included gender, age, residence in the Midwest, and Hispanic, African American, or Asian ethnicity. A supplementary analysis (N = 11,546) determined that violence also helped to differentiate suicide ideators from nonsuicidal youth. Four factors (including violence involvement, eating disorders, and gender consistently) differentiated both between suicide attempts and ideation, and also between suicide ideators and nonsuicidal youth. The link between violence involvement and suicidality is interpreted in terms of the capability for suicide from the interpersonal theory of suicide.