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Parents’ Suicide Attempt Increases Risk That That Teenagers Will Also Attempt Suicide

The risk that young people attempt to commit suicide is highest within two years after a parent has received inpatient care due to a or , according to a study of over 15,000 teenagers and . The risk is much higher for teenagers than for . This is reported by a collaborative study between in Sweden and Copenhagen University in Denmark, which is published in the online journal PLOS ONE.

Although the incidence of suicide has decreased in Sweden in recent years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of attempted suicides by young adults in Sweden and other European countries. It has long been known that and suicidal behaviour in parents is a risk factor for attempted suicide in their children.

The present study looked at the temporal relationship between the inpatient care due to and suicide attempt, suicide and death in parents and the risk of attempted suicide in their children with respect to the children’s age at the time of the attempted suicide, knowledge of which has hitherto been limited. The result shows that young people ran the highest risk of attempted suicide relatively soon (within two years) after a parent, particularly the mother, had done the same. Daughters in particular also ran a high risk of attempted suicide relatively soon after the mother’s admission to a psychiatric hospital. The risk of attempted suicide related to such a parental event was greatest amongst teenagers of both sexes, and then declined with age.

The study included a total of 15,193 teenagers and young adults born between 1973 and 1983 who tried to take their own lives between the ages of 15 and 31. These people were compared with peers of the same sex and born in the same area who had not tried to commit suicide.

“We show that young people, particularly teenagers, need support during a period immediately following the admission of a parent into care for mental disorders or suicidal behaviour if their own attempted suicide is to be prevented,” says principal investigator Dr Ellenor Mittendorfer-Rutz, researcher at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Clinical Neuroscience. “What’s required, therefore, is effective cooperation between all actors, particularly the adult and child-and adolescent psychiatric services.”

Editors Note:

If you are feeling suicidal it’s important to get help immediately.

The following is a small selection of information that may help:

Befrienders Worldwide
Find contact numbers and support information for your country.

USA: Childhelp
National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). All calls are anonymous and confidential.

UK: ChildLine
Dial 0800 1111 to speak to a counsellor. Calls are free and confidential.

Further reading:
If you are thinking about suicide… read this first
How to cope with suicidal feelings
What Are Suicidal Thoughts? What Is Suicidal Ideation?
What Is Depression? What Causes Depression?
What Is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? What Is PTSD? What Causes PTSD?

If you are considering self-harm it is also important to get help and these sites may help you:
Self Harm Support at Harmless

These are just a small selection of the options available to you – your doctor should be able to help. Please don’t give up, you will feel better again.


The study was financed by the Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (FAS).
Publication: ‘A Life-course Study on Effects of Parental Markers of Morbidity and Mortality on Offspring’s Suicide Attempt’, Ellenor Mittendorfer-Rutz, Finn Rasmussen & Theis Lange, PLOS ONE, online open access 12 December 2012.
Karolinska Institutet