Suicide risk in youth with intellectual disabilities: The challenges of screening

Erica Ludi, Elizabeth D. Ballard, Rachel Greenbaum, Maryland Pao, Jeffrey Bridge, William Reynolds, Lisa Horowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities (IDs), often diagnosed with comorbid psychiatric disorders, are a vulnerable population who may be at risk for developing suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Previous research has demonstrated that direct suicide screening can rapidly and effectively detect suicide risk and facilitate further clinical evaluation and management. Currently, there are no measures that screen for suicide risk designed specifically for individuals with ID. A review of the literature was conducted to (1) estimate the prevalence of suicidal thoughts, behaviors, and deaths by suicide in children and adolescents with ID; (2) describe associations between youth with ID and suicide risk; and (3) identify the limitations of commonly used suicide screening measures developed for non-ID youth. The literature review confirms that suicide risk exists in this population; youth with ID think about, attempt, and die by suicide. Standardized suicide risk screening is challenged by the lack of measures developed for this population. A summary of the findings is followed by a discussion of the practical clinical considerations surrounding the assessment of suicide risk in youth with ID.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-440
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Youth suicide
  • assessment
  • developmental delay
  • intellectual disability
  • suicide screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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