Predicting suicide attempts among adolescents

An article, written by Principal Clinical Psychologist Colby Pearce, which originally appeared on Colby’s blog site Attachment and Resilience.

On this, World Suicide Prevention Day, I thought it fitting to draw your attention to one of my earlier publications: Pearce, C. & Martin, G (1994), Predicting Suicide Attempts Among Adolescents. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 90 : 324-328.

Between 1991 and 1995 I was employed as a research officer at the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (Southern CAMHS) here in Adelaide, South Australia. Most of my time in the role was spent conducting research and preparing journal articles on the topic of youth suicide. The partnership that was formed with Professor Graham Martin was a productive one and, in a sense, launched (mine) and relaunched (Graham’s) careers: mine, as it facilitated my acceptance into a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology and my career as a Clinical Psychologist; and Graham’s, as it launched his hugely successful career in suicide research and prevention. Several papers were published in international, peer-refereed psychiatric journals at that time and, time permitting, I intend to provide a brief synopsis of each paper and links to downloadable versions in the coming days and weeks.

In Predicting Suicide Attempts Among Adolescents I endeavoured to show how knowledge of the spectrum of suicidal behaviours could be used to accurately predict those teenagers who did and did not acknowledge having made a suicide attempt. An assessment methodology was formulated and formed an integral component of an Australia-wide General Medical Practitioner education video/program: Youth Suicide: Recognising the Signs (Child Health Foundation). A key finding of the study was that the presence or absence of a suicide plan and deliberate self-harm in combination was highly predictive of teenagers who had and had not made a suicide attempt.

Google suggests that this paper has been cited in 57 other research articles in the years since.

Ultimately, my career took a different path, with publications in the areas of childhood Attachment, Resilience and Psychotherapy. Nevertheless, one of the publications I am most proud of is Predicting Suicide Attempts Among Adolescents.