Suicide risk reduction is crucial for 15–29-year-old youth, who account for 46% of suicide deaths in low- and middle-income countries. Suicide predictors in high-resource settings, specifically depression, do not adequately predict suicidality in these settings. We explored if interpersonal violence (IPV) was associated with suicidality, independent of depression, in Nepal.
A longitudinal cohort of child soldiers and matched civilian children, enrolled in 2007 after the People's War in Nepal, were re-interviewed in 2012. The Depression Self-Rating Scale and Composite International Diagnostic Interview assessed depression and suicidality, respectively. Non-verbal response cards were used to capture experiences of sexual and physical IPV.
One of five participants (19%) reported any lifetime suicidal ideation, which was associated with sexual IPV, female gender, former child soldier status and lack of support from teachers. Among young men, the relationship between sexual IPV and suicidality was explained by depression, and teacher support reduced suicidality. Among young women, sexual IPV was associated with suicidality, independent of depression; child soldier status increased suicidality, and teacher support decreased suicidality. Suicide plans were associated with sexual IPV but not with depression. One of 11 female former child soldiers (9%) had attempted suicide.
Sexual IPV is associated with suicidal ideation and plans among conflict-affected young women, independent of depression. Reducing suicide risk among women should include screening, care, and prevention programs for sexual IPV. Programs involving teachers may be particularly impactful for reducing suicidality among IPV survivors.