Data reveals children are considering suicide more often.
The number of children and teenagers going to the emergency room for suicidal thoughts or attempts has increased sharply in the United States in recent years, according to a new study. Published in the journal Pediatrics, it found that the rate of suicide attempts among children aged 5 to 11 increased by “more than two-thirds between 2007 and 2015.” For adolescents aged 12 to 17, the rate increased by “more than one-third.”
The findings are based on a review of data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, a database of hospital emergency department visits. The study looked at data from more than 143,000 emergency room visits for suicidal ideation or attempts among children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 17. The researchers found that the number of visits “increased from 0.66 per 100,000 children in 2007 to 1.12 per 100,000 children in 2015.” That’s a 71% spike!
The study’s authors say the findings “highlight the need for better access to mental health care for children and adolescents,” adding the data is “particularly worrisome.” More young people are considering hurting themselves and may not have the support needed to get through difficult times. This is especially true of young girls and children from racial minority backgrounds.
“The increase in suicide attempts among young people is alarming and heartbreaking,” said study lead author Dr. Gregory Pleasure, a pediatrician and suicide prevention researcher at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
The study did not examine the reasons for the increase, but Pleasure said, “Previous research has shown that the rise in suicide rates among young people is likely due to a combination of factors, including increased stress and anxiety, social media use, and access to firearms. We need to do more to prevent suicide in our young people. This is a public health crisis that is not getting the attention it deserves.”
It’s possible that there’s been an increase in the number of young people who are actually attempting suicide. Or it could be that more young people are seeking help for suicidal thoughts, thanks to increased awareness and understanding as mental health continues to be destigmatized.
“Either way, Dr. Gregory Plemmons, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital. said, “the findings highlight the need for more resources to address the problem of suicide among young people. This is a huge public health problem, and we need to be doing more to prevent it.”
Plemmons and his colleagues say there are a number of things that can be done to reduce the risk of suicide. For one, it’s important to increase access to mental health care. In many parts of the country, there are not enough mental health providers to meet the demand. It’s also important to increase awareness of the warning signs of suicide and to make sure that young people and their families know where to go for help.
Should an individual be in a mental health crisis, there are hotlines set up so they can speak with a professional immediately. Calling for emergency services is also critical.