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Objective: Precipitating factors and life events associated with medically serious suicide attempts were examined in young people making serious suicide attempts and control subjects.

Method: Using a case-control design, the authors contrasted 129 young people making serious suicide attempts with 153 randomly selected community controls on a series of life event occurrences within the preceding year. Precipitating factors for serious suicide attempts were also examined.

Results: The most common precipitants of serious suicide attempts were relationship breakdowns, other interpersonal problems, and financial difficulties. However, one third of those attempting suicide were unable to describe any precipitating factor. Individuals who made serious suicide attempts had elevated rates of life events which were associated principally with interpersonal difficulties, work issues, financial difficulties, and legal problems. When due allowance was made for intercorrelations between life event measures and antecedent social, family, and personality factors, interpersonal losses and conflicts and legal problems remained significant risk factors for serious suicide attempts.

Conclusions: Important proximal occurrences for serious suicide attempts among young people include a series of life events associated principally with interpersonal conflicts, relationship difficulties, and legal problems. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 1997, 36(11):1543-1551.

Copyright 1997 (C) American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry