Grand Rounds
December 26, 2001

Suicide in TeenagersAssessment, Management, and Prevention

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program (Dr Zametkin) and Geriatric Psychiatry Branch (Mss Alter and Yemini), National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Md. Dr Zametkin is also a commissioned officer on active duty in the United States Public Health Service.


Grand Rounds at the Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health Section Editors: John I. Gallin, MD, the Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md; David S. Cooper, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 2001;286(24):3120-3125. doi:10.1001/jama.286.24.3120

Adolescents who kill themselves invariably have an underlying psychiatric disorder. Biological markers are not yet clinically useful for identifying adolescents at risk, and there is a paucity of research data on the effectiveness of behavioral intervention for suicidal teenagers. A case of a 16-year-old scholar and athlete is presented to illustrate how multiple risk factors and a family diathesis often go undetected, resulting in tragic consequences. Psychiatric, familial, genetic, and social risk factors of adolescent suicide are reviewed, and the efficacy of lithium and antidepressant pharmacotherapy in reducing suicide rates is discussed. The importance of screening adolescent patients for depression is emphasized. Although teenage suicide is rare and hard to predict, identifying and treating adolescents at risk is essential to further reduce teenage suicide.