Self-reported attempted suicide and childhood maltreatment were common among children living or working on the street in Vancouver, Canada, suggesting suicide prevention efforts should target this marginalized population.
“General population-based estimates of suicidal behavior may not accurately reflect rates among hidden youth populations, particularly those who are homeless or street-involved and may be at even higher risk of suicide. Street youth (young people living or working all or part of their time on the street) are a marginalized population with greatly elevated mortality compared with the general youth population,” study researcher Scott E. Hadland, MD, MPH, of Boston Children’s Hospital, and colleagues wrote.
Scott E. Hadland
To assess the risk for attempted suicide in relation to childhood maltreatment, researchers evaluated data from the At Risk Youth Study for a prospective cohort of street youth in Vancouver, Canada (n = 660). Study participants, aged 14 to 26 years, reported illicit drug use and street involvement in the past month. Sexual, physical and emotional abuse and physical and emotional neglect were assessed via self-reports. Attempted suicide was assessed semiannually.
Moderate-to-extreme childhood maltreatment prevalence ranged from 16.8% reporting sexual abuse to 45.2% reporting emotional abuse.
According to analysis of 1,841 person-years, 5.3% of study participants reported attempted suicide.
Physical abuse (adjusted HR = 4.47; 95% CI, 2.12-9.42), emotional abuse (aHR = 4.92; 95% CI, 2.11-11.5) and emotional neglect (aHR = 3.08; 95% CI, 1.05-9.03) were associated with suicide attempts, according to adjusted analyses.
“Our findings reveal an elevated risk of suicide attempts among street youth with a history of childhood maltreatment compared with those without this history,” Hadland and colleagues wrote. “Additional studies are needed to show the mechanistic pathways and to identify protective factors. Nonetheless, the high prevalence of self-reported childhood maltreatment among street youth in this setting demonstrates the importance of delivering suicide prevention services from a trauma-informed perspective.” – by Amanda Oldt
Disclosure: Hadland reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the full study for a list of all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.