Teen girls' hospital visits for suicide attempts rose over 50% at one point during the pandemic: CDC
- Hospital visits for suspected
suicideattempts rose among teens throughout the pandemic. Teengirls were hit hardest, with rates 51% higher in February and March 2021 than the same time in 2019.
- Mitigation measures, isolation, and a disruption of future plans could contribute.
The pandemic has taken a dramatic toll on American teens' mental
The study looked at three distinct phases of the pandemic
To conduct the study, researchers looked at data from the National Syndromic Surveillance Program to identify trends in emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts between January 1, 2019 and May 15, 2021. They zeroed in on 12-to-25-year-olds, and broke down the findings by sex, looking at three distinct phases of the pandemic.Early in the pandemic, these ER visits went down, compared to the same time in 2019. This could be because hospitals were overrun by COVID-19 patients, and other people were encouraged to stay home to stay safe.
But when researchers looked at early May 2020, they found visits for suspected suicide attempts had crept up among 12-to-17 year olds, particularly girls. During the summer of 2020, the average weekly visits for suspected suicide attempts among that population was 26.2% higher than that same time in 2019.Between February 21 and March 20 of this year, the number was 50.6% higher. The researchers say their findings might reflect how young people have been hit especially hard by COVID-related precautions that isolated them from friends, school, and mental health services. Increases in substance use and worries about family health and economic problems could have also contributed to suicide risk. The pandemic exacerbated child abuse and neglect, too.
It's possible, the study authors say, that the rates don't actually reflect more suicide attempts, but rather more hospital visits because of them. Parents home with children may be more apt to notice and take their kids to the emergency room.
But past research suggests it's deeper than that. In an August report out of the
But, as Dr. Alex Crosby, chief medical officer in the CDC's Division of Injury Prevention, said during an Association of Healthcare Journalists fellowship in May, "it's never just one thing."
"It's oftentimes the clinical depression along with substance abuse, along with some other things that might have to do with a financial problem or a relationship problem, or a school problem - that interaction of various factors are generally going put somebody at risk for suicide," he said.
Suicidal behaviors are preventableThe study had some drawbacks: It wasn't nationally representative, nor could it analyze racial and ethnic differences. Hospital systems and states aso have different coding and reporting systems, which could have skewed the results. Follow-up visits for suicide attempts could be coded as initial suicide attempt visits, potentially making the rates seem higher than they actually are.
"There is a broad responsibility that communities can work together," Crosby said.Businesses, places of worship, public health services, schools, hospitals, and the criminal justice system all "have a role to play," he said. "No one person or one group can do it all on its own."
Insider's Hilary Brueck contributed to this report.
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