TUESDAY, May 21 (HealthDay News) -- When a classmate commits suicide, teens are more likely to consider or attempt suicide themselves, according to a new study. This "suicide contagion" occurs regardless of whether the teens knew the deceased student personally, the researchers found.
Teens aged 12 and 13 are particularly vulnerable, according to the study by Dr. Ian Colman, Canada Research Chair in Mental Health Epidemiology, and Sonja Swanson, of the Harvard School of Public Health. The study appeared May 21 in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Since the effects of exposure to suicide can linger for two years or more, the researchers said, the study findings have implications for suicide-prevention strategies.
"We found that exposure to suicide predicts suicidality. This was true for all age groups, although exposure to suicide increased the risk most dramatically in the youngest age group, when baseline suicidality was relatively low," the researchers wrote. "Perhaps any exposure to a peer's suicide is relevant, regardless of the proximity to the [deceased person]. It may be best for [post-suicide] strategies to include all students rather than targeting close friends."
In conducting the study, the researchers examined data on more than 22,000 teens aged 12 to 17 from a Canadian national survey of children and youth.
Students aged 14 and 15 exposed to a classmate's suicide were almost three times as likely to have suicidal thoughts. Those aged 16 and 17 were twice as likely to contemplate suicide. By this age, the researchers found, nearly one-quarter of teens had a classmate commit suicide and 20 percent knew someone personally who took their own life.
The effects of the suicide contagion, however, were strongest among younger students. The study found that 12- and 13-year-olds exposed to suicide were five times more likely to have suicidal thoughts. Among these younger studen
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