Faculty Articles

Adolescent Athletes and Suicide: A Model for Treatment and Prevention

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Aggression and Violent Behavior




When examining suicide in the US adolescent population, subgroups are typically lost in the shuffle. We believe that subgroups are bound by unique characteristics and these distinguishing factors should be taken into clinical consideration. With that in mind, we provide the case that athletes be deemed a specific population and superfluous information regarding athletes should be thoughtfully integrated into treatment and prevention models when dealing with depression and suicidal behavior. This manuscript will be particularly useful for clinicians who have little or no experience working with athletes. We cover theoretical constructs often utilized when examining athletes such as perfectionism, fear of failure and social cognitive theory. We also introduce potential risk factors unique to the athletic domain and offer models for treatment such as the traditional cognitive behavioral therapy, the transtheoretical model of change, motivational interviewing, mindfulness therapy and psychophysiological approaches. The goal of this manuscript is not to explain a link between athletes and suicide- rather, our goal is to help clinicians who work with athletes or plan to work with adolescent athletes to build an expansive view of the unique culture related to the sporting domain. The coverage of risk factors and theoretical models are not meant to be comprehensive or exhaustive and the treatment suggestions are not intended to replace traditionally-accepted approaches to suicidality, rather to serve as an adjunct to a clinical approach when working specifically with adolescent athletes.



Peer Reviewed