Research is scarce on the prospective predictors of first onset suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STB) and the accuracy of these predictors in university students, particularly in low-and-middle income countries. Therefore, we assessed the 1-year incidence of STB among first-year students, a broad range of prospective predictors of STB incidence, and evaluated the prediction accuracy of a baseline multivariate risk prediction model to identify students at highest risk for STB onset over the subsequent 12 months.
Students (n = 3238) from 13 universities in Mexico completed an online survey developed for the World Mental Health International College Student Surveys in their first year and again 12 months after. We ran generalized linear models and receiver operator curves.
The 1-year incidence of suicidal ideation, plan and attempt was 8.53%, 3.75%, and 1.16%, respectively. Predictors in final models were female sex (ideation only), minority sexual orientation (ideation only), depression, eating disorders, ADHD (ideation and plan), ongoing arguments or breakup with a romantic partner (ideation only), emotional abuse (ideation only), parental death (ideation, plan), not Catholic/Christian (ideation, plan), not having someone to rely on, psychotic experiences (plan only), and insufficient sleep (attempt only). Prediction accuracy for ideation, plan and attempt was area under the curve = 0.76, 0.81 and 0.78, respectively. Targeting the top 10% of students at highest risk could reduce STB in the subsequent year up to 36%.
By assessing these risk/protective factors in incoming students we identified students at greatest risk for developing STB to whom suicide prevention strategies could be targeted.