Recognising mental illness in young people could prevent suicides

July 11, 2002

Recognising mental illness in young people and dealing with it appropriately could help prevent suicides, concludes a study in this week's BMJ.

Researchers in Denmark identified 496 cases of suicide during 1981-97 in young people aged 10-21 years. They matched each case to a random sample of 50 people of the same age and sex, to act as controls.

They found that suicide is more likely among young people if a parent commits suicide or there is a history of mental illness in the individual and their parents and siblings. Dysfunctional family backgrounds and socioeconomic factors, such as unemployment, low income, and poor schooling, seem to be less important.

When all factors were considered, the strongest risk factor was mental illness in the young people, say the authors. Preventive strategies should therefore be aimed at the early recognition and treatment of mental illness, they conclude.
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BMJ

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