Examining the Relationships Between Suicidal Ideation, Substance Use, Depressive Symptoms, and Educational Factors in Emerging Adulthood
Elgin, Jenna E
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Suicide is the third leading cause of death in the United States in emerging adulthood (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2012). Young people who die from suicide often show symptoms of other mental health problems, such as depression and substance abuse or dependence. Additionally, educational variables have emerged as promising risk factors for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The present study builds on existing research by examining the impact of substance use variables, educational factors, and depressive symptoms on suicidal ideation in a community-based sample of young adults. Secondary analysis was conducted using data from the Raising Healthy Children Project, a longitudinal study of students drawn from 10 public schools in a suburban Pacific Northwest school district. The current study utilized data from four time points during emerging adulthood (ages 19 to 23). Hierarchical linear modeling was used to analyze initial levels, change over time, and within-individual changes in suicidal ideation with respect to substance use, depressive symptoms and numerous educational variables. Results indicated that suicidal ideation decreased over time during the four time points. Chronic depressive symptoms predicted initial suicidal ideation levels and also predicted the trajectory of suicidal ideation over time. This suggests that higher depressive symptoms are related to a slower decline in suicidal ideation. In addition, the findings point to episodic associations between suicidal ideation and both substance use and depressive symptoms. Particularly, the results suggest that short-term increases in marijuana use, heavy drinking and depressive symptoms may signal episodic increases in suicidal ideation, and there were unique findings based on educational status. Findings also indicated that attending 4-year college was predictive of higher suicidal ideation compared to their non-college counterparts. Higher grades also emerged as a unique predictor of suicidal ideation among those in college. The findings of the current study highlight the need for clinicians to look beyond the presence or absence of depressive symptoms and substance use when assessing suicidal ideation. Changes in individuals' depression and substance use may be important indicators of heightened risk of suicidal thoughts. In addition, educational variables may also play an important role in suicidal ideation in young adults.
- Education - Seattle