Following a decline of more than 28 percent, the suicide rate for 10- to-24-year-olds increased by 8 percent, the largest single-year rise in 15 years, according to a report just released in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
The decline took place from 1990 to 2003 (from 9.48 to 6.78 per 100,000 people), and the increase took place from 2003 to 2004, (from 6.78 to 7.32), the report said.
“This is the biggest annual increase that we've seen in 15 years. We don't yet know if this is a short-lived increase or if it's the beginning of a trend,” said Dr. Ileana Arias, director of CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “Either way, it's a harsh reminder that suicide and suicide attempts are affecting too many youth and young adults. We need to make sure suicide prevention efforts are continuous and reaching children and young adults.”
The report is an analysis of annual data from the CDC's National Vital Statistics System (NVSS). NVSS data are comprised of birth, death, marriage, divorce, and fetal death records in the United States. Researchers looked at trends during the 15-year period by gender, age group and suicide method. It did not examine reasons for the changes in suicide rates.
An increase in the suicide rates for three gender-age groups accounts for the increase in the overall suicide rate, the report said. Rates rose for 10- to-14-year-old females, 15 -to-19-year-old females and 15- to-19-year-old males from 2003 to 2004.
Prior to 2003, the rates for all three groups were generally decreasing.
The analysis also found that changes had taken place in the methods used to attempt suicide. In 1990, firearms were the most common method for both girls and boys. However, in 2004, hanging/suffocation was the most common method of suicide among girls, accounting for 71.4 percent of suicides among 10- to-14-year-old girls and 49 percent among 15-to-19 year-old girls. From 2003 to 2004, there was a 119 percent increase in hanging/suffocation suicides among 10-to -14-year-old girls. For boys and young men, firearms are still the most common method.
“It is important for parents, health care professionals, and educators to recognize the warning signs of suicide in youth,” said Dr. Keri Lubell, a behavioral scientist in CDC's Injury Center and lead author of the study. “Parents and other caring adults should look for changes in youth such as talking about taking one's life, feeling sad or hopeless about the future. Also look for changes in eating or sleeping habits and even losing the desire to take part in favorite activities.”
A previously published CDC survey of youth in grades 9 to 12 in public and private schools in the United States found that 17 percent reported “seriously considering” suicide, 13 percent reported creating a plan and 8 percent reported trying to take their own life in the 12 months preceding the survey.
“This study demands that we strengthen our efforts to help parents, schools and health care providers prevent things that increase the risk of suicide,” said Dr. Arias. “We need to build on the efforts dedicated to education, screening and treatment and bridge the gap between the knowledge we currently have and the action we must take.”
CDC's suicide prevention efforts include expanded surveillance systems for suicide through the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS). NVDRS is a comprehensive, linked reporting system that collects and centralizes information on suicides and homicides from a variety of sources, such as medical examiners and coroners, law enforcement, hospitals, public health officials and crime labs. As this system evolves, it provides a promising approach to capture data that will help to better understand the circumstances surrounding suicide. Information from NVDRS is helping officials, organizations, and communities develop, implement, and evaluate effective prevention policies and programs.
CDC is also working with states and tribal governments to implement the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. The plan is designed to further the dialogue and action that has already begun in communities and to serve as a springboard for changing attitudes, policies, and services.
A resource for helping to prevent suicide is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free number, 1-800-273-TALK (273-8255).
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