Suicidal Thoughts, Attempts On The Rise Among Young People: 'It's A Critical Public-Health Crisis Right Now'

Why Suicide Attempts Are More in Adolescents

Vanderbilt University researchers say the rates of children and teens hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or attempts have doubled since 2008, and the problem seems to spike in the fall.

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About five years ago, pediatricians at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville found that more and more of their inpatient beds at the children's hospital were occupied by children and adolescents with mental health issues, especially those who had come in because of suicide attempts, or suicidal thoughts. He pointed out that the opposite is true for adults, with suicide rates highest during the summer months. Suicide is typically the third leading cause of death for young Americans, but rose to the second leading cause of death in 2016. Half of the encounters involved teens aged 15 to 17; 37 percent were 12 to 14; and nearly 13 percent were children aged 5 to 11 years.

Data from the Pediatric Health Information System allowed the researchers to use billing codes to determine the differences between emergency department encounters, observation stays, and inpatient hospitalizations related to suicide. Children aged 12-14 represented 37 percent of the events, while about 13 percent accounted for children between 5 and 11.

They examined data from the Pediatric Health Information System database, with clinical and billing data from 49 USA children's hospitals. They also identified the data month-by-month and found seasonal trends in the encounters.

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The researchers analyzed 115,856 encounters for suicide ideation and attempt in emergency departments at 31 children's hospitals during the study period.

The majority of the encounters were girls, and a little over half of the encounters occurred among teenagers ages 15 to 17.

"To our knowledge, this is one of only a few studies to report higher rates of hospitalization for suicide during the academic school year", said study lead author Greg Plemmons, MD, associate professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr.

New research shows a growing number of young people are thinking about taking their own lives, and the study suggests school stress may play a role.

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