The Impact of Exposure to Peer Suicidal Self-Directed Violence on Youth Suicidal Behavior: A Critical Review of the Literature

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There is considerable evidence that being exposed to the suicide or suicidal behavior of another can increase the risk for suicide. Significant relationships between media coverage and youth suicide have been documented in the professional literature. Exposure to familial suicidal behavior has also been established as a risk factor for youth suicidal behavior; However, peer suicide exposure is not as clear cut as research results in this area have been mixed. In the current paper the empirical literature focused on the associations between exposure to peer suicides and suicide attempts and youth suicidal behavior is critically reviewed. Effect sizes were computed for each of the 23 studies included in the review to allow for cross-study comparisons. The results demonstrate that having a friend or acquaintance attempt suicide is significantly related to risk for suicidal thoughts and behavior. However, the support for the relationship between the suicide of a peer and youth suicidal behavior was less consistent. Implications for clinical practice and suicide postvention as well as areas of future research are discussed.