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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(3), 455; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15030455

Exposure to Suicide in High Schools: Impact on Serious Suicidal Ideation/Behavior, Depression, Maladaptive Coping Strategies, and Attitudes toward Help-Seeking

1
Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Department of Epidemiology, Columbia University Medical Center and The New York State Psychiatric Institute, 1051 Riverside Drive, Unit 72, New York, NY 10032, USA
2
Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, The New York State Psychiatric Institute, 1051 Riverside Drive, Unit 72, New York, NY 10032, USA
3
Departments of Psychiatry and Biostatistics, Columbia University Medical Center, 722 West 168 Street, New York, NY 10032, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 4 February 2018 / Revised: 22 February 2018 / Accepted: 28 February 2018 / Published: 6 March 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Suicide Research)
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Abstract

Adolescents’ exposure to a peer’s suicide has been found to be associated with, as well as to predict, suicidal ideation and behavior. Although postvention efforts tend to be school-based, little is known about the impact of a schoolmate’s suicide on the school’s student population overall. The present study seeks to determine whether there is excess psychological morbidity among students in a school where a schoolmate has died by suicide, and whether students’ attitudes about coping and help-seeking strategies are more or less problematic in such schools. Students in twelve high schools in Suffolk and Westchester counties in New York State—2865 students at six schools where a student had died by suicide within the past six months, and 2419 students at six schools where no suicide had occurred within the current students’ tenure—completed an assessment of their suicidal ideation and behavior, depressive symptoms, coping and help-seeking attitudes, stressful life events, and friendship with suicide decedent (if applicable). No excess morbidity (i.e., serious suicidal ideation/behavior and depression) was evident among the general student population after a schoolmate’s death by suicide; however, the risk of serious suicidal ideation/behavior was elevated among students at exposed schools who had concomitant negative life events. There was a significant relationship between friendship with the decedent and morbidity, in that students who were friends, but not close friends, of the decedents had the greatest odds of serious suicidal ideation/behavior. Overall, students in exposed schools had more adaptive attitudes toward help-seeking; but this was not true of the decedents’ friends or students with concomitant negative life events. The implications of the findings for postvention strategies are discussed. View Full-Text
Keywords: suicide; peers; exposure; negative life events; friendship; maladaptive coping attitudes; help-seeking attitudes suicide; peers; exposure; negative life events; friendship; maladaptive coping attitudes; help-seeking attitudes
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Gould, M.S.; Lake, A.M.; Kleinman, M.; Galfalvy, H.; Chowdhury, S.; Madnick, A. Exposure to Suicide in High Schools: Impact on Serious Suicidal Ideation/Behavior, Depression, Maladaptive Coping Strategies, and Attitudes toward Help-Seeking. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15, 455.

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