Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 420–433 | Cite as

Suicide Attempts Among Adolescents with Self-Reported Disabilities

  • Tally Moses
Original Article


This study examines the relative risk for suicide attempts (SA) among high-school students self-identifying with one or more disability classifications (nine); assesses the extent to which youth with disabilities are disproportionately vulnerable to risk factors that predict suicidal behavior among all adolescents; and explores whether disability status adds to risk for SA after accounting for a comprehensive set of known risk and protective factors for SA. Analyses using Wisconsin’s 2012 Dane County Youth Assessment Survey data found that youth in each disability category were 3–9 times more likely to report suicide attempt(s) relative to peers, and the endorsement of multiple disabilities tripled the risk SA relative to youth reporting a single disability. Some disability sub-groups, including youth reporting autism spectrum disorder, hearing, and vision impairments reported surprisingly high rates of SA. While youth with disabilities reported disproportionate exposure to adversity in every life domain examined, similar to youth reporting SA, disability status added unique risk for suicidal behavior. This suggests that disability may be a ‘fundamental cause’ of suicidal behavior, a question that requires further investigation.


Adolescents Disabilities Suicide attempts Risk factors Fundamental cause 



Centers for disease control


Suicide attempts


Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual


Child welfare system


Youth with disabilities


Youth reporting having attempted suicide(s)


Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder


Autism spectrum disorder


Dane county youth assessment



The author wishes to thank Dane County Human Services for granting permission to use the Dane County Youth Assessment Data.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author has no competing interests (financial or non-financial) to disclose.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social WorkUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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