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October, 2001
The Warning Signs and Major Risk Factors of Teenage Suicide


Each year, thousands of American teenagers are diagnosed with clinical depression. If ignored or poorly treated, it can be a devastating illness for adolescents and their families. A new book, Understanding Teenage Depression, provides the latest scientific research on this serious condition and the most up-to-date information on its treatment. Drawing on her many years of experience as a psychiatrist working with teenagers, Dr. Maureen Empfield answers the questions parents and teens have about depression. Maureen Empfield, M.D., is director of psychiatry at Northern Westchester Hospital Center in Mt. Kisco, New York, and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She is the author or coauthor of more than a dozen publications for the professional market. Nicholas Bakalar is a New York-based writer and editor.

Although it is almost impossible to predict precisely which teenager will attempt suicide, there are warning signs that parents can look for. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has assembled this list of indications. If one or more of these signs occur, parents should talk to their teenager and seek professional help.

In high-risk patients—that is patients who have threatened or attempted suicide—there are four risk factors that account for more than 80% of the risk for suicide: major depression, bipolar disorder, a lack of previous mental health treatment, and the availability of firearms in the home. If these four problems were solved, most suicides would be prevented.

Source: Maureen Empfield, M.D. and Nicholas Bakalar

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There is no hope of joy except in human relations. - Antoine de Saint-Exupery



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