Teen Suicide Rate Spikes 56% in a Decade

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Health experts have been baffled by a rise in suicide among teens and young adults. Getty Images
  • Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for older teens and young adults.
  • The suicide rate has been increasing from 2007 through 2017.
  • The rate went from 6.8 deaths per 100,000 people to 10.6, according to the CDC report.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the teen suicide rate in the United States has skyrocketed in recent years.

Suicide was recently ranked as the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24 years old.

Each year, about 7 out of 100,000 young adults between the ages of 15 and 19 die by suicide each year — and that number only seems to be growing.

The suicide rate had been on a steady decline between 2000 and 2007. Then, things picked up, and from 2007 to 2017, teen suicides spiked by nearly 56 percent — the rate climbing from 6.8 deaths per 100,000 people to 10.6, according to the report, which the CDC published today.

Similarly, homicides — the third-leading cause of death among the age group — declined between 2007 and 2014, then increased by about 18 percent in 2017.

The new statistics are sobering, to say the least, but some health experts suspect the teen suicide rate is even higher than what’s been reported.

“Even though the study by the CDC demonstrates an increased rate of completed suicide in the adolescent, young adult age group, I still think we need to recognize that suicide may be underreported, and that accidents continue to be the leading cause of death and a significant number of those accidents may actually have been suicide,” Dr. Victor M. Fornari, the vice chair of child and adolescent psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York, told Healthline.

There are a handful of biological, psychological, and social factors at play, making it difficult to pinpoint one sole reason for the surge in teen suicide.

“We know there are predisposing issues, precipitating issues, and perpetuating issues — and I don’t think there’s any one single set that accounts for this,” Fornari said.

There are the common risk factors, including mood disorders like depression, trauma, or anxiety, along with alcohol and drug use and a family history of suicide, as well as ongoing issues accessing mental health treatment and care.

There are also newer pressures influencing the lives of young adults. Bullying is a major problem in the United States, especially in the age of social media, where people can hurt each other through a few clicks and put people at risk for suicidal thoughts, says Fornari.

Those who opt to go to college are put under such intense levels of stress that nearly 1 in 5 college students consider taking their life.

Many who are figuring out their sexual orientation struggle with coming out in today’s divisive political climate. Experts estimate that lesbian, gay, and bisexual kids are three times more likely than their straight peers to attempt suicide.

And with the help of the internet and lax federal laws on firearm sales, teens and young adults can easily access pills or guns.

“Suicide is caused by a combination of an individual feeling like they don’t belong in society, feeling like they are a burden on others, having the means to die by suicide, and feeling trapped by current problems without seeing a solution,” said Jennifer Weniger, PhD, a licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist at Loma Linda University Behavioral Medicine Center.

Fornari says we need to address teen suicide in the same way we address other public health issues, like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer: We come up with screening methods to get ahead of the problem and prevent it from worsening.

“In addition to depression screening, which is already incorporated into the pediatric well visit for adolescents, we really have to do direct suicide screening,” Fornari explained.

The big issue there, though, is that one visit a year may not be enough. Oftentimes, young people’s emotional states shift as their lives change throughout the year.

In the meantime, however, we should all look for those glaring warning signs, which 4 out of 5 teens exhibit before attempting suicide.

If a teen you know starts behaving and functioning differently — i.e., they become increasingly withdrawn, hopeless, tired, erratic, or anxious — it’s worth reaching out and having an open, honest conversation.

If need be, set up an appointment with a mental health professional, who can screen and treat them for any life-threatening thoughts.

“The greater public health question that remains to be addressed is what is the most effective screening method for youth today so we capture as many vulnerable kids with suicide thoughts in an effort to engage them in treatment,” Fornari said.

That answer’s not out yet, he adds, but we need to come up with public health strategies that can screen and identify vulnerable youth as early as possible.

“Suicide is a public health epidemic that warrants attention, funding, and collaboration between community leaders,” Weniger added. “We all need to work together in the fight against suicide.”

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the teen suicide rate in the United States has skyrocketed in recent years.

Between 2007 and 2017, teen suicides spiked by nearly 56 percent — the rate climbing from 6.8 deaths per 100,000 people to 10.6.

While there are a handful of factors causing the spike, health experts suspect bullying, access to guns, and high levels of stress seem to have contributed to the rising rate.

If you live in the United States, you can get help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). They have trained counselors available 24/7.

Stop a Suicide Today is another helpful resource.

Befrienders Worldwide and the International Association for Suicide Prevention are two organizations that provide contact information for crisis centers outside of the United States.



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