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

Children's hospital visits for suicide ideation and attempts are increasing

Data from hospitals across the USA were examined in a research led by Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

The number of kids hospitalized for thinking about or attempting suicide doubled in less than a decade, according to a study published Wednesday in Pediatrics.

115,856 encounters for either suicidal thoughts or attempts in emergency departments at 31 children's hospitals were identified.

A new study finding a rise in suicidal thoughts and attempts among young people adds to the research pointing to a decline in mental health among US children and adolescents.

"Although children's hospitals serve as regional referral centers of expertise for many pediatric physical health conditions, little is known about their role in providing [suicidal ideation] and [suicide attempts] care at the time when rates of youth suicides appear to be increasing", the authors wrote. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville.

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When divided into age groups, the 15-17 age group showed the largest spike (roughly 50 percent of encounters) in the study period, followed by the 12-14 group (37 percent) and finally, the 5-11 group (13 percent). Two-thirds were girls. Openly discussing mental health and letting adolescents know that they have a support system can also make a huge difference. In addition to looking at overall suicide ideation and attempt rates in school-age children and adolescents, the researchers analyzed the data month-by-month and found seasonal trends in the encounters. They suggested "age- and sex-specific approaches to suicide screening and prevention". He stated the findings reflected a trend that he himself had observed: Encounters dipped to lowest levels in the summer but peaked during the fall and spring. Seasonal variation was also seen consistently across the period, with October accounting for almost twice as many encounters as reported in July.

Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt said, "To our knowledge, this is one of only a few studies to report higher rates of hospitalization for suicide during the academic school year".

"Youth may face increased stress and decreased mental health when school is in session", the authors wrote.

Plemmons and co-authors disclosed no relevant relationships with industry.

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