Prospective Identification of Adolescent Suicide Ideation Using Classification Tree Analysis: Models for Community-Based Screening

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Abstract

Objective: Although a large number of risk markers for suicide ideation have been identified, little guidance has been provided to prospectively identify adolescents at risk for suicide ideation within community settings. The current study addressed this gap in the literature by utilizing classification tree analysis (CTA) to provide a decision-making model for screening adolescents at risk for suicide ideation. Method: Participants were N = 4,799 youth (Mage = 16.15 years, SD = 1.63) who completed both Waves 1 and 2 of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. CTA was used to generate a series of decision rules for identifying adolescents at risk for reporting suicide ideation at Wave 2. Results: Findings revealed 3 distinct solutions with varying sensitivity and specificity for identifying adolescents who reported suicide ideation. Sensitivity of the classification trees ranged from 44.6% to 77.6%. The tree with greatest specificity and lowest sensitivity was based on a history of suicide ideation. The tree with moderate sensitivity and high specificity was based on depressive symptoms, suicide attempts or suicide among family and friends, and social support. The most sensitive but least specific tree utilized these factors and gender, ethnicity, hours of sleep, school-related factors, and future orientation. Conclusions: These classification trees offer community organizations options for instituting large-scale screenings for suicide ideation risk depending on the available resources and modality of services to be provided. This study provides a theoretically and empirically driven model for prospectively identifying adolescents at risk for suicide ideation and has implications for preventive interventions among at-risk youth.

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