Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 1-23

First online:

Overview of early detection and treatment strategies for suicidal behavior in young people

  • Susan J. BlumenthalAffiliated withBehavioral Medicine Program, Health and Behavior Research Branch, National Institute of Mental Health
  • , David J. KupferAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic

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Suicidal behavior represents a major public health problem requiring the development and implementation of early detection and treatment strategies. This paper integrates a proposed model of risk factors with a multithreshold level of early detection in youth suicide. These riskfactor domains include psychiatric diagnosis, personality traits, psychosocial factors, life events and chronic medical illness, biological factors, and family history and genetics. The three levels of early detection are detection awareness, major problem awareness, and major psychiatric disorders. Each of these levels are described in detail with examples, followed by a review of intervention and treatment strategies for each level. Detection awareness requires a strong component of education and public health interventions. Major problem awareness requires a level of active intervention and treatment in dealing with behavior problems, personality issues, or specific life events. The final level deals not exclusively but primarily with the treatment of psychiatric disorders since it is proposed that treatment of specific psychiatric syndromes plays a major role in preventing suicide. The primary purpose of this paper is to outline a new approach to early detection and intervention for the prevention of youth suicide.