Clinical differences between suicidal and nonsuicidal depressed children and adolescents

Rémy P. Barbe, Douglas E. Williamson, Jeffrey A. Bridge, Boris Birmaher, Ronald E. Dahl, David A. Axelson, Neal D. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine the clinical symptoms and comorbid psychiatric disorders of depressed children and adolescents with and without clinically significant suicidal ideation. Method: Children and adolescents aged 7 to 17 years with current DSM-IH-R major depressive disorder (MDD) (N = 135) were recruited between January 1987 and April 2002. Current MDD symptoms and lifetime comorbid psychiatric disorders were assessed using either a combination of the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School Age Children-Epidemiologic and -Present Episode versions or the -Present Lifetime version. Thirty-two percent (N = 43) of the depressed subjects were classified as suicidal (at least suicidal ideation with a plan). Results: Depressed suicidal youth presented with a more severe episode (p = .001) and a poorer functional status (p = .019), were more hopeless (p = .001), and presented more frequently with insomnia (p = .011). There was an interaction between suicide × sex × pubertal status for severity of MDD (p = .013), the presence of hopelessness (p < .001), poor functional status (p = .023), and comorbidity with a lifetime history of any disruptive behavior (p = .019). Among prepubertal depressed males, suicidal boys had significantly increased severity of MDD (p = .025) and poorer functional status (p = .044) than non-suicidal boys. Among postpubertal depressed females, suicidal girls were more frequently hopeless (p = .008) and presented an increased severity of MDD (p = .022) and more frequent lifetime history of any disruptive behavior (p = .03) when compared with nonsuicidal girls. Conclusion: There appears to be a sex difference for some clinical features, particularly hopelessness, among depressed suicidal children and adolescents. Whether hopelessness is a sex-specific characteristic of depressed suicidal children and adolescents requires further study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)492-498
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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