Suicide Attempts from Adolescence into Young Adulthood: A System Dynamics Perspective for Intervention and Prevention


Chung, Saras Yu (2016). Suicide Attempts from Adolescence into Young Adulthood: A System Dynamics Perspective for Intervention and Prevention.


Though the reduction of suicide-related deaths has been a national priority for over a decade (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001) and over $22 million per year (National Institutes of Health, 2015) have been invested to prevent suicide, rates of suicide have not declined (CDC, 2012). In fact, for some groups of adolescents, these rates seem to be on the ride (Wasserman, Cheng, & Jiang, 2005). The ineffectiveness in reducing deaths by suicide despite increased funding and coordinated efforts suggests the need for a new perspective on examining why and how adolescents begin to desire and attempt suicide and how to stop new attempts from occurring. Using an individual-level system dynamics model (Forrester, 1994; Sterman, 2000), this study answers the following research questions: 1. Is there a feedback relationship governing the experience of suicide attempts for adolescents into adulthood? 2. What types of interventions can be used to decrease suicidality across the lifespan? The goal of this study was to understand whether Thomas Joiners interpersonal theory of suicide (IPTS) (Joiner, 2005; Van Orden et al., 2010), when mathematically defined as a system dynamics model, could accurately simulate and predict suicide attempts across time. The model was specified with nationally representative data from the National Longitudinal Survey for Adolescent and Adult Health (Add Health) and tested for applicability in understanding differences in suicide attempts by gender and racial subgroups. Modifications to the structure of the model were made leading to a modified theory, the developmental systems model of the interpersonal theory of suicide. Results from experiments on the developmental systems model of IPTS suggest that reducing the duration of depression or increasing the time it takes to build capability to attempt suicide for adolescents can minimize attempts across adolescence and adulthood. Implications for research, policy, and practice are outlined, with an emphasis on future directions for suicide research.


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Book Title

Social Work


Chung, Saras Yu

Series Author(s)

McBride, Amanda Moore

Year Published


Volume Number



Washington University



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