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

Suicide Risk

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

The study presented information last spring at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies with the study now published in the Journal of Pediatrics. Young Americans aged 15 to 17 experienced the most significant increases, as did girls, and suicidal thoughts and attempts peaked in the spring and fall while declining in the summer.

The study focused on trends in emergency rooms and inpatient encounters for suicidal thoughts or actions from 2008 until 2015.

Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center found an alarming rise in hospital visits relating to suicidal thoughts and attempts among children. "Increases were noted across all age groups, with consistent seasonal patterns that persisted over the study period".

Plemmons and his colleagues said in the Pediatrics study that it is possible that physicians are paying more attention and sending kids to specialist hospitals because they don't feel equipped to deal with suicidal thinking. Girls made up almost two-thirds of the cases.

The annual percentage of hospital visits for suicide ideation and suicide attempts nearly doubled among US children from 2008 to 2015.

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Characterizing this as "the most striking variation" of the study, they cited only one other study that found "a correlation between the risk of [suicide ideation and suicide attempts] among children and adolescents during the academic school year".

Gregory Plemmons, the lead author of the study and a researcher as well as paediatrician at the Nashvilles' Vanderbilt University said that the result of the study confirmed what all he had been seeing at the hospitals. More than half of the cases occurred in children ages 15-17, with children ages 12-14 accounting for 37 percent, and 12.8 percent of cases involving kids ages 5-11.

Overall, there were about 116,000 encounters for suicide ideation and suicide attempts among children (1.21% of total encounters across 31 hospitals).

"Youth may face increased stress and decreased mental health when school is in session", the authors wrote. "The growing impact of mental health issues in pediatrics on hospitals and clinics can longer be ignored, particularly in a time when mental health resources for children appear to be static, and woefully scarce across the U.S".

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