Friday Factoids Catch-Up: Alarming Trends in Suicide Rates

While the suicide rate in America trended steadily and solidly downward during the ‘80s and ‘90s (likely attributable to new, more effective antidepressants with fewer side effects), a significant turnaround with an increase was noted between 1999 and 2014 (Bichell, 2016), with some fluctuation between 1999 and 2007; from 2007 onward, however, the rates rose sharply with a particularly marked increase in the rates of children aged 10-14 (Middlebrook, 2016).  While it is true that suicide rates climbed steadily in the 15 years from 1999 to 2014 for every age group under 75, the one demographic that stands out most is young girls ages of 10 to 14.  Of particular concern is the fact that while they are a very small percentage of total suicides, their group experienced the most dramatic increase, with rates actually tripling over 15 years from 0.5 to 1.7 per 100,000 people (Bichell, 2016).  While this is quite an alarming trend, the fact that there are nearly 400 attempts for every completed suicided raises the stakes to an even higher degree (Cutler, Glaeser, Norberg, 2001).

 

A singular cause has been difficult to pin down: a difficult economy, with attendant joblessness/unemployment making it more difficult to access health care and/or treatment; lack of appropriate coverage under personal health insurance policies; and a shift in the drug of choice among recreational users from crack and cocaine to heroin and prescription narcotics (Bichell, 2016).  A positive correlation between suicide and homicide was noted, as was the fact that while girls attempt suicide more often than boys, it is the boys who complete it more often.  Blacks have lower rates of attempts and completions than whites, rural states have higher rates of suicide, and firearms are by far the most utilized method in successful suicides (Cutler, et al, 2001).

 

The reasons behind the “why” of youth committing suicides are equally difficult to ascertain.  Rationalization of the act in the context of an unhappy life that has less value than death, as well as an attempt to exert some measure of control in the face of feeling helpless/powerless or to elicit a response (“looking for attention”) have been positively identified, as has the combination of impulsive behavior and availability of firearms or other equally accessible methodology; or even, incredibly, imitating the suicide of a close friend or loved one (Cutler, et al, 2001).  Earlier puberty has also been advanced as a possibility, due to so much change occurring all at once.  While boys tend to peak around 13, with girls the peak age of puberty drops to 11, with some studies indicating that girls may be starting their periods even earlier.  It has also been shown that there is a direct correlation between the onset of puberty and the onset of psychological disorders, particularly depression, which is a huge risk factor for suicidal ideations, and due to the shift in the age of onset for puberty, girls may be experiencing a myriad of psychological issues in addition to anxiety and depression at a much younger age than ever before encountered (Bichell, 2016).

 

This recent trend toward an increase in suicidal ideation, attempts, and completions is disheartening, to be sure, but it can be corrected.  Parents absolutely must look to their children’s welfare, and be attentive to the needs of their children.  While they should definitely talk to their children regularly to ascertain the presence, if any, of issues that may be of serious concern, parents should also be ready to just listen, and let their children talk without being pressured.  There are many issues faced by children that parents too often tend to forget from their own childhood, and the unavailability of parental support and reassurance can be a contributing factor in allowing children to slip towards an irreversible event that can be readily avoided.

 

References

Bichell, R. E. (2016, April 22). Suicide Rates Climb In U.S., Especially Among Adolescent
Girls. Retrieved May 10,

2017, from http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/04/22/474888854/suicide-rates-climb-in-u-s-especially-among-adolescent-girls

Cutler, D. M., Glaeser, E. L., & Norberg, K. (2001, March 15). Explaining the Rise in Youth Suicide. Retrieved        May 10, 2017, from https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=263440

Middlebrook, H. (2016, November 03). Suicide deaths on the rise in kids. Retrieved May 10, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/03/health/kids-suicide-deaths-increase

 

Teresa King,
PMHC Intern

 

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