Kids’ Suicide Rates Are Rising: What Can We Do to Help?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that suicide rates are increasing in almost every state in the nation. In 2016 an estimated 45,000 Americans died by suicide, ranking suicide as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States (2018). According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children’s hospitalizations due to suicidal ideation and suicide attempts significantly increased nationwide from 0.66% in 2008 to 1.82% in 2015 (2018). These statistics require all citizens to engage in a call to action to expand resources and access to care for children’s’ mental health services.
The upward trend of kids’ suicide rates has drastic implications on how we recognize mental health disorders early on, ensuring that we have health care delivery systems in place to address our nation’s youth and doing so with early intervention strategies. The increase in suicide rates in this population has not been studied extensively but is thought to be attributed to social pressures, unstable or dysfunctional family dynamics, bullying, or academic performance anxiety. Schools may play a big role in identifying kids who are at risk and ensuring that they receive adequate treatment. Resources should be allocated to getting more mental health providers in schools who are able to work alongside at-risk youth to create safety plans and do regular check ins.
Removing barriers to mental health treatment not only helps those potentially risking their lives by suicide attempts, but it helps them create safety plans for when they have intrusive thoughts. Safety plans also allow family members or caregivers the resources to properly intervene if a crisis arises. It is a disservice to society to stigmatize mental health treatment and to underfund healthcare services. Shifting our focus to prevention will not only save lives, but it will also improve quality of life of those suffering from suicidal ideation.
Every situation is different but warning signs to be cautious of include persistent expressions of anger or edginess, socially withdrawing or losing interest in activities they previously enjoyed, or feelings of hopelessness or emotional pain. If you are noticing any of these signs in kids, do not ignore them. Ask them if they are okay and listen to what they are telling you. Tell them that they are not alone and that you are there to support them in whatever they are experiencing. Then, be sure to seek out possible resources and ensure that these concerns are brought to the attention of their pediatrician or a mental health professional. If you have reason to believe that your child is in crisis and you cannot keep them safe long enough to get an appointment with a mental health professional, call 9-1-1 or take them to the nearest emergency room.
We can each play a part in helping reduce the impact of suicide rates by recognizing the importance of suicide awareness and increasing access to preventative resources for those seeking mental health treatment. By learning how to identify the warning signs of suicide and how to respond to these circumstances, you may be able to save a life. Easy ways to prevent suicide are ensuring medications and weapons are stored safely, with a lock in place if needed. If you know someone in need, help them contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
Written by Mashal Rezai
Intake Coordinator, Balance Treatment Center
CDC Newsroom. (2018, June 07). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p0607-suicide-prevention.html
Plemmons, G., Hall, M., Doupnik, S., Gay, J., Brown, C., Browning, W., Williams, D. (2018). Hospitalization for Suicide Ideation or Attempt: 2008–2015. Pediatrics,141(6). doi:10.1542/peds.2017-2426