Suicidality, posttraumatic stress, and depressive reactions after earthquake and maltreatment: A cross-sectional survey of a random sample of 6132 chinese children and adolescents.J Affect Disord. 2018 05; 232:363-369.JA
Surviving an earthquake can greatly increase the risk of suicidality among children and adolescents, especially if they experience physical and emotional neglect or abuse within the family after the earthquake. How various types of childhood adversity affect the vulnerability of adolescents to suicidality after exposure to a natural disaster is not well understood. This study examined the relationships among different types of earthquake exposure, childhood trauma, psychopathology and suicidality.
Suicidality, the level of earthquake exposure, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and maltreatment, including physical and emotional abuse and neglect, were assessed in 6132 child and adolescent survivors randomly selected from three primary schools, five junior high schools, two senior high schools and one six-year high school in Baoxing, Lushan and Tianquan counties, which were the areas most severely affected by the 2013 Ya'an earthquake.
The Suicidal Behaviors Questionnaire-Revised (SBQ-R) scores were high, with 27.8% of the participants scoring at or above the cut-off score of 7. Multivariate regression showed that emotional abuse and depression experienced after the earthquake contributed to the suicide risk, whereas emotional neglect and PTSD made somewhat smaller contributions. The mediation analysis suggested that PTSD and depression symptoms partially mediated the association of suicidality with emotional neglect or abuse. The PTSD, depression and suicidality scores were generally higher for females than for males, whereas the depression and suicidality scores were higher for older than younger respondents.
Our results highlight the need for the implementation of school-based, adolescent-centered suicide prevention programs in the long-term aftermath of exposure to traumatic events. Interventions may also need to be tailored to gender and developmental stage. Suicidality is independently associated with emotional abuse, neglect, depression and PTSD symptoms in this disaster-exposed young population. Longitudinal studies should explore whether depression and PTSD symptoms mediate the relationship between past emotional abuse or neglect and the current suicide risk.