Five Profiles of Adolescents at Elevated Risk for Suicide Attempts: Differences in Mental Health Service Use

Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Objective: Adolescents at risk for suicide are highly heterogeneous in terms of psychiatric and social risk factors, yet there has been little systematic research on risk profiles, which would facilitate recognition and the matching of patients to services. Our primary study aims were to identify latent class profiles of adolescents with elevated suicide risk, and to examine the association of these profiles with mental health service use (MHSU). Method: Participants were 1,609 adolescents from the Emergency Department Screen for Teens at Risk for Suicide (ED-STARS) cohort. Participants completed baseline surveys assessing demographics, MHSU, and suicide risk. Telephone follow-up interviews were conducted at 3 months to assess suicide attempts. Participants met pre-established baseline criteria for suicide risk. Results: Using latent class analysis, we derived 5 profiles of elevated suicide risk with differing patterns of eight risk factors: history of multiple suicide attempts, past-month suicidal ideation, depression, alcohol and drug misuse, impulsive-aggression, and sexual and physical abuse. In comparison to adolescents who did not meet baseline criteria for suicide risk, each profile was associated with increased risk of a suicide attempt within 3 months. The MHSU was lowest for adolescents fitting profiles with previous (but no recent) suicidal thoughts and behavior, and for adolescents from racial and ethnic minority groups. Conclusion: Adolescents at elevated risk for suicide present to emergency departments with differing profiles of suicide risk. MHSU varies across these profiles and by race/ethnicity, indicating that targeted risk recognition and treatment linkage efforts may be necessary to reach some adolescents at risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1058-1068.e5
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • adolescence
  • latent class profiles
  • mental health service use
  • suicide risk


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