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Social Rejection and Suicidal Ideation and Attempts among Adolescents Following Hospitalization: a Prospective Study

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Despite research indicating that stressful life events are associated with subsequent suicidal ideation (SI) and behavior, there is a lack of clarity regarding whether specific types of life events are differentially related to SI and attempts. The current prospective study examines whether social rejection related life events are proximally related to SI and suicide attempts in a clinically acute sample of adolescents. Adolescents aged 12 to 18 (n = 219) were followed for 6 months after discharge from inpatient hospitalization. A contextual threat interview of stressful life events between index admission and 6-month follow-up was administered. Participants were also assessed for current SI and suicide attempts at baseline and 6-month follow-up. Results from a multiple linear regression model indicated a significant prospective association between number of social rejection stressors and SI, even after controlling for baseline depressive symptoms, SI at study entry, gender, age, and number of non-social rejections stressors. An Anderson-Gill recurrent events model was conducted to examine the relationship between SR stressors and suicide attempts. Results demonstrated that the 31 days following a major social rejection stressor were associated with heightened risk for prospective suicide attempts. However, social rejection stressors were not more strongly related to risk for suicide attempt than non-social rejection stressors. These findings help clarify the role of social rejection as a precipitant of suicidal crises and have potential to inform more accurate, targeted risk assessment.

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Preparation of this manuscript was supported by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Institute of Mental Health under Award Numbers R01 MH101138 and R01 MH099703.

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Correspondence to Shayna M. Cheek.

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Cheek, S.M., Goldston, D.B., Erkanli, A. et al. Social Rejection and Suicidal Ideation and Attempts among Adolescents Following Hospitalization: a Prospective Study. J Abnorm Child Psychol 48, 123–133 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-019-00580-z

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  • Life stress
  • Social rejection
  • Adolescents
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Suicide attempts