International data reveal that medical students are at higher risk of attempting suicide than the general population. We aimed to determine the prevalence of suicidal ideation and attempt among South African medical students from three universities and identify key predisposing risk factors. Data were collected via a questionnaire to medical students on demographics, mental health history, depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation and attempt. A total of 874 medical students from three universities were enrolled. We found a high prevalence of suicidal ideation (32.3%) and suicidal attempt (6.9%), which is three times higher than the general age-appropriate South African population. Simple screening questionnaires can identify such students, enabling universities to provide targeted and improved support for at-risk students.
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