Study Warns of Sharp Increase in Suicidal Ideation Among Children

The number of teenagers and children attempting suicide is on the rise.  While it appears that these incidents seem consistent among all age groups, a new study describes that the rates of children who have been hospitalization over thoughts and/or attempts of suicide have doubled between 2007 and 2015. 

The study indicates that diagnosis for suicidal ideation among minors rose from 580,000 cases in 2007 to 1.12 million in 2015. Throughout the study, it appears that the average age of the children who have been evaluated for suicide thoughts/attempts was only 13 years of age.  The study also revealed that 43 percent of patients were between the ages of 5 and 11. 

“The numbers are very alarming,” laments lead study author Dr. Brett Burstein.  And its not just the numbers, alone, that should shock you.  Dr. Burstein goes on to say, “It also represents a larger percentage of all pediatric emergency department visits. Where suicidal behavior among the pediatric population was just 2 percent of all visits; that’s now up to 3.5 percent.”

Perhaps the only thing more disturbing than the numbers is that we still do not know why we are seeing such a dramatic shift. Researchers theorize that perhaps children, today, feel more pressure in school; and partly because they have more awareness of how difficult it is to make a living.  

Of course, parents continue to feel more stress every year, and that is easily passed on to their kids.  Researchers also theorize that the increase in social media use—and, thus, exposure to cyberbullying—might also have something to do with it.  As a matter of fact, the CDC reports at least 15 percent of children have reported they were the target of bullying, last year.  And, of course, that percentage is probably much higher since most kids are reluctant to discuss their bullying experiences. 

What is, perhaps most challenging about this data is the only other thing we can be certain about is that we have a severe need for intervention methods.  Also an emergency room physician with Montreal’s Children’s Hospital, Dr. Burstein goes on to say, “Emergency departments are not equipped with the resources to deal with this problem,” citing a big lack of access to specialists as well as an absence of professional training for all doctors. 

The results of this study have been published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.