Mom's Suicide May Raise Child's Odds for Later Suicide Attempt

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New research out of Sweden suggests that a mother's suicide may influence the risk for later suicide attempts in her children, even more so than the suicide of a father. The research doesn't prove that suicides by parents, either the mother or the father, causes offspring to face a higher risk of trying to kill themselves. And the researchers noted that the number of offspring in the study who ended up hospitalized after a suicide attempt was small.

Still, "pediatricians, surviving parents and educators should be aware of the possible risk and provide appropriate referral sources for these children as needed," said study lead author S. Janet Kuramoto, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In 2007, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for almost 34,600 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide is more prevalent among men, with about four times as many males as females killing themselves.

Previous studies have hinted that the children of parents who committed suicide were at higher risk of feeling suicidal themselves, but it wasn't clear if the problems were connected to the parent's suicide or to the fact that the parent died, whatever the cause, Kuramoto said. The authors of the new study sought to gain more insight. They examined Swedish databases to discover what happened to 5,600 children whose mothers committed suicide and 17,847 whose fathers committed suicide during the years 1973-2003. The researchers compared that data to rates of children whose parents died in accidents.
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