C.D.C. Finds Spike in E.R. Journeys Linked to Suspected Suicide Amongst Teen Women
Emergency room visits after alleged suicide attempts by teenage girls increased in the first few months of 2021 compared to rates in 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Friday.
The new study, which was based on data from the National Syndromic Surveillance Program, showed that emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts in girls aged 12 to 17 years occurred in the four weeks to 20 in 2019. The rate started rising in the summer of 2020, the researchers said.
The number of suspected suicide attempts in boys of the same age and adults of both sexes, ages 18-25, remained relatively stable compared to the corresponding period in 2019, the study found.
“The results of this study suggest greater exposure to young women than previous reports found during the pandemic, adding to the need for increased awareness and prevention for this population,” the CDC said.
The report follows other recent research that suggested higher rates of mental health problems in teenagers, including self-harm, attempted suicide, and suicidal ideation, which some experts fear may be related to stressors from the pandemic.
But Ellen Yard, an epidemiologist and lead author on the study, wrote in an email that “the analysis in this report was not aimed at assessing whether this surge was caused by Covid-19”.
“However, some researchers have suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic could increase the risk of suicide,” continued Dr. Yard away. “Adolescents may have been particularly affected by mitigation measures such as social distancing (including lack of connection with schools, teachers and peers), barriers to treatment for mental health, and family health and economic problems.”
The researchers also said that the increase in hospital visits for adolescent girls did not necessarily mean that there had been more suicides. Regarding emergency room visits, the report states: “It is important that while this report found an increase in emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts among teenage women in 2020 and early 2021, that does not mean that suicide deaths have increased. “
According to preliminary data from the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System, total suicides in the United States declined to 44,834 deaths in 2020 from 47,511 in 2019, although preliminary studies based on local data indicated an increase in suicides among black Americans and other people the US showed color compared to previous years.
John Ackerman, the suicide prevention coordinator at the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, said the report was in line with his experience since the pandemic began.
Dr. Ackerman, who was not involved in the study, said that at the beginning of the pandemic he saw low rates of emergency room visits for teenagers for mental health issues, perhaps because people were concerned about exposure to the virus but that those numbers have increased like the months passed.
“You have started seeing emergency rooms here in Ohio and across the country reporting really high rates of hospital admissions for suicide attempts, depression, anxiety, self-harm, and those kinds of presenting factors,” said Dr. said Ackermann.
He said the pandemic was an additional source of fear for people in groups who are often at higher risk for suicidal thoughts, such as people of color and LGBTQ youth.
But many factors play a role, added Dr. Ackerman added, and the pandemic was just one of many stressors in what he called a “stormy year”.
“Many people have felt isolated or devalued or hopeless for many reasons, and all of these are risk factors for suicide,” he said.
If you have thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). For a list of additional resources, see SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.