A study of suicide attempts comparing adolescents to adults on a northern plains American Indian reservation.


Researchers are interested in assessing the descriptive characteristics of suicide attempters as well as other conditions surrounding the suicide attempts, apparent attempter stressors, motivations, and other behavioral data. The authors seek to identify significant correlations between suicide attempt characteristics: 1) subject precautions against attempt discovery; 2) notification of others about the attempt; 3) motivation for attempt; 4) subject perception of attempt lethality; and 4) period of contemplation. The researchers used existing data from patient files (medical and psychological), police reports, and a suicide registry/protocol that had been implemented for each suicide attempt and completion within the 5 year time period from 1-1-85 to 12-31-89. An interview policy had already been incorporated during the five year period that required mandatory assessment of all persons admitted to the emergency room because of suicide attempts. The total number of suicide attempts recorded at the service unit was 194. Adolescent females (19 and under) comprised the largest group of attempters. More females lived with their family; used pills; indicated family problems; and were victims of previous violent episodes. Males took fewer precautions against discovery; exhibited more seriousness of intent; consumed alcohol/drugs within 4 hours of attempt; used the harder methods in their attempts (e.g. guns and knives). More data is available in this study. Medical and mental health professionals, developing treatment plans need to take into consideration the variability and variety of characteristics and behaviors each attempter possesses prior to and after each suicide attempt. This study has indicated that attempters can be evaluated on a continuum reflective of seriousness of intent and suggested at least 4 separate suicide types that theoretically group characteristics of suicide behaviors. Information in this study may be used to develop successful prevention strategies.