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

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

The outcomes suggest that the rate of suicidal attempts increased in the fall and spring, and lowest in the summer.

The study focused on trends in emergency rooms and inpatient encounters for suicidal thoughts or actions from 2008 until 2015. "Increases were noted across all age groups, with consistent seasonal patterns that persisted over the study period". The researchers found 115,856 such encounters for suicide ideation and attempts in emergency departments at 31 children's hospitals around the U.S. They found that nearly two-thirds of these encounters were girls. These work emphasize the growing need for mental health services and training for clinicians at children's hospitals, and suggests that further study of the contribution of school to SI and SA is needed.

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In this retrospective study, researchers used clinical and billing data from 31 children's hospitals across the United States to further characterize the number of hospital encounters for SI and SA.

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. Examining encounters by age groups, adolescents (ages 15-17) had the greatest average annual increase (0.27 percentage points, 95% CI 0.23-0.30), followed by adolescents ages 12-14 (0.25 percentage points, 95% CI 0.21-0.27, P 0.001 for both). The researchers also found that around two-thirds of those encounters were girls.

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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". Twelve percent of the encounters occurred among children ages 5 to 11.

"Youth may face increased stress and decreased mental health when school is in session", the authors wrote.

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"To our knowledge, this is one of only a few studies to report higher rates of hospitalization for suicide during the academic school year", says lead author Greg Plemmons, of Monroe Carell Jr.

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