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June 5, 1991

Adolescents Who Attempt Suicide

Author Affiliations

University of Pittsburgh (Pa) Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic

University of Pittsburgh (Pa) Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic

JAMA. 1991;265(21):2805. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03460210051009

To the Editor.—  The article "Adolescent Suicide Attempters: Response to Suicide-Prevention Programs," by Shaffer et al1 has received considerable public attention. Problems in the selection of outcome measures, however, limit the use of research findings for prevention planning purposes.The aims of the study were to determine (1) whether there was a high-risk group of children with distorted attitudes about suicide; (2) if the intervention was effective for the group in greatest need; and (3) if exposure to the program led to distress or imitation of behavior in students who had not previously attempted suicide, with imitation expected to occur most often among symptomatic adolescents.The first goal of the study was achieved. A number of adolescents were identified who had made previous suicide attempts, and these students also reported distorted attitudes regarding suicide. However, firm conclusions cannot be drawn concerning the latter two goals of the study. Findings