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This article provides an overview of the prevalence, risk factors, and screening instruments for suicidal thoughts and suicidal behaviors in the juvenile delinquent population. Factors specific to the juvenile justice environment and their interactions with suicidality in adolescents are examined. Methods: A search of the MEDLINE and SearchMedica Psychiatry databases was conducted for articles published since 1980 in the areas of suicide and suicidal behavior in the juvenile offender population as well as the general adolescent population. Results: Several studies reported an increased rate of suicide and suicidal behavior in juvenile delinquents as compared to the general adolescent population. Risk factors can be grouped in four major categories – Demographic factors –female gender, race (Native American >Hispanic>White>Black); Psychiatric illness- mood disorders, substance abuse, conduct disorder, history of suicidal behavior; Psychological factors- impulsivity, history of sexual abuse; Environmental factors- housing with adults, room confinement, locked sleeping rooms, short term facility. Conclusion: The environment (juvenile detention) is but one of several factors that might explain the increased rate of suicides in juvenile facilities. A continuum of universal screening at intake, adequate psychiatric treatment including medication management and therapy, appropriate facility level changes, adequate housing, staff training and restricted use of confinement are likely to be very helpful.
Keywords: Suicide, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, juvenile justice, delinquents, Juvenile Delinquency, risk factors, screening instruments.