In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its findings that the rate of suicide keeps increasing, while other causes of death continue to decrease.
Sally Curtin, one of the authors of the CDC report, stated in an interview with NPR’s Rae Ellen Bichell, “You know, you can’t just say it’s confined to one age group or another for males and females, that truly, at all ages, people are at risk for this. And, you know, our youngest have some of the highest percent increases.”
Curtin went on to say that although suicide deaths have been steadily increasing among many different populations, the one group that alarmed Curtin and her colleagues the most was the increase of female suicides, ages 10 to 14.
Although they make up a small portion of the overall suicides tracked, their death rate has tripled in the past 15 years, from 0.5 to 1.7 per 100,000 people.
While these rates are high, they don’t include the numbers for suicidal attempts.
Curtin and her fellow team of researchers do not know why the rise, or what the particular risk factors are. However, some speculate that doctors might be more concerned about prescribing antidepressant medications to patients under the age of 26 due to the FDA warning that antidepressant use might increase the risk of suicidal ideation and attempts.
Girls reaching puberty earlier (from age 13 to 11) is considered another possible contributing factor, because many believe that puberty can trigger the on-set of psychological disorders such as depression which can lead to an increased risk of suicide.
Even though we may not know all the contributing factors, we do need to be more aware that younger children are at higher risk than many believed was possible. Understanding the warning signs for depression and suicide can help.
The American Academy of Pediatrics describes the following signs that may signal that a depressed teen may be considering suicide:
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS MAY INCLUDE:
• Withdrawal from friends and family members.
• Trouble in romantic relationships.
• Difficulty getting along with others.
• Changes in the quality of schoolwork or lower grades.
• Rebellious behaviors.
• Unusual gift-giving or giving away own possessions.
• Appearing bored or distracted.
• Writing or drawing pictures about death.
• Running away from home.
• Changes in eating habits.
• Dramatic personality changes.
• Changes in appearance (for the worse).
• Sleep disturbances.
• Drug or alcohol abuse.
• Talk of suicide, even in a joking way.
• Having a history of previous suicide attempts.
• Family history of suicides.
If you are concerned about someone in your life — either a youth or adult — you can support them in reaching out to their family members, friends, clergy, physician, therapist, school counselor or the 24-hour crisis line 415-499-6666 or the Suicide Hotline 415-499-1100 here in Marin County.
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