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Differences between children and adolescents who commit suicide and their peers: A psychological autopsy of suicide victims compared to accident victims and a community sample

Anne Freuchen12*, Ellen Kjelsberg3, Astri J Lundervold4 and Berit Grøholt5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, N-0316 Oslo, Norway

2 Department of Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Sorlandet Hospital, N-4610 Kristiansand, Norway

3 Centre for Forensic Psychiatry, Oslo University Hospital, N-0407 Oslo, Norway

4 Department of Biological and Medical Psychology, Uni Research, K.G.Jebsen Centre for Reasearch on Neuropschyiatric Disorders, University of Bergen, N-5009 Bergen, Norway

5 Institute of clinical medicine, Faculty of medicine, University of Oslo, N-0361 Oslo, Norway

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Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health 2012, 6:1  doi:10.1186/1753-2000-6-1

Published: 4 January 2012



The purpose of this study was to gain knowledge about the circumstances related to suicide among children and adolescents 15 years and younger.


We conducted a psychological autopsy, collecting information from parents, hospital records and police reports on persons below the age of 16 who had committed suicide in Norway during a 12-year period (1993-2004) (n = 41). Those who committed suicide were compared with children and adolescents who were killed in accidents during the same time period (n = 43) and with a community sample. Results: Among the suicides 25% met the criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis and 30% had depressive symptoms at the time of death. Furthermore, 60% of the parents of the suicide victims reported the child experienced some kind of stressful conflict prior to death, whereas only 12% of the parents of the accident victims reported such conflicts.


One in four suicide victims fulfilled the criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis. The level of sub-threshold depression and of stressful conflict experienced by youths who committed suicide did not appear to differ substantially from that of their peers, and therefore did not raise sufficient concern for referral to professional help.

Children; adolescents; suicide; fatal accidents