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

18 May, 2018, 09:31 | Author: Cassandra Gardner
  • Teens are visiting the hospital with thoughts of suicide more frequently

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.

A new study reveals a disturbing surge in the number of young children hospitalized over suicidal thoughts or attempts in the last decade.

The outcomes suggest that the rate of suicidal attempts increased in the fall and spring, and lowest in the summer. While the study is limited by a lack of differentiation between encounters for SI and SA and lack of generalizability given completion at only free-standing children's hospitals, the study is notable for its large sample size and does contribute to the pediatric community's understanding of recent longitudinal, demographic, and seasonal trends in SI and SA encounters at children's hospitals.

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Using data from the Pediatric Health Information System (PHIS), the researchers used billing codes to identify emergency department encounters, observation stays and inpatient hospitalizations tied to suicide ideation and attempts.

Increases of emergency department encounters because of suicidal thoughts or actions increased during the study period for all age groups, but teens aged 15-17 accounted for the most suicidal events - about half.

The study had taken inputs from various sources such as the hospital records. 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. Plemmons added, "particularly in a time when mental health resources for children appear to be static, and woefully scarce across the U.S". The researchers also found that around two-thirds of those encounters were girls. "We were also surprised to see the strong temporal association with the academic calendar (hospitalization rates were twice as high in October than July, for instance)".

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The researchers looked overall suicide ideation and attempt rates in school-age children and adolescents then they evaluated the data month-by-month and found seasonal trends in the encounters.

The researchers called for more studies of possible gender differences in youth mental health.

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