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Understanding Developmental Processes in Youth Suicide


Eric Murphy, Ph.D.
Division of Translational Research


This concept aims to encourage research on the processes that contribute to suicide risk in youth in the United States. Several barriers currently exist for improving our understanding of suicide risk in youth, including a lack of validated, developmentally appropriate measures of suicidality across childhood and adolescence, uncertainty on what aspects of suicide risk are age-specific and what factors may contribute to differential group risk factors. This concept aims to provide an opportunity to examine existing barriers and contribute to our understanding of the phenomenology, risk factors, and protective factors of suicide risk in youth.


Suicide rates among youth have been on the rise, with notable increases in racial/ethnic minority groups. However, the course of suicide risk in youth is poorly understood and there are significant gaps in our understanding of how suicide risk develops and changes across childhood and adolescence. To explore these gaps, NIMH convened a four-part virtual research roundtable series, titled “Risk, Resilience, & Trajectories in Preteen Suicide.” Discussions at these meetings highlighted research gaps, including those related to assessing suicidal thoughts and behavior in children, characterizing risk and protective factors across multiple domains, quantifying risk and risk trajectories across development, and evaluating risk and protective factors within an intersectional framework that considers interconnections and interdependencies between social categories and systems.

By addressing these key gap areas, the research spurred by this concept could lead to improved identification of early or proximal risk for suicide in youth and could inform the field of targets and timing for developmentally appropriate prevention and intervention efforts.