*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.
Suicide attempts and talk about suicide are rising alarmingly among America’s kids, with emergency departments seeing a near doubling of cases over less than a decade, a new study reveals.
Among children aged 5 to 18, suicidal thoughts and attempts led to more than 1.1 million ER visits in 2015 — up from about 580,000 in 2007, according to an analysis of U.S. data.
“What we found was very troubling,” said lead researcher Dr. Brett Burstein, a pediatric emergency medicine doctor at Montreal Children’s Hospital in Canada.
Half of the patients were 13 and older, half younger, with 43% between 5 and 10 years of age, the study found.
Using data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Burstein also looked at the proportion of these cases compared to all pediatric ER visits.
The proportion jumped from slightly more than 2% in 2007 to 3.5% percent in 2015, the findings showed.
“It’s an alarming trend,” Burstein said, noting that suicidal thoughts and attempts are the strongest predictor of completed suicides.
Worse, it’s possible that the study sample only catches a small percentage of kids who have suicidal thoughts and behaviors, Burstein said. That’s because many kids are seen only by their primary care doctors, or not at all, so many cases are probably unreported.
And Burstein believes that analysis of 2018 data would reveal even greater increases in suicidal behavior and ideation.
What’s behind the increase? It’s likely a combination of factors, Burstein said, including greater recognition of the problem by parents, schools and doctors.
It could also be that kids are under more stress or are developing depression at higher rates. “Probably, all of those things are at play,” Burstein noted.
Parents and schools should be educated on warning signs and steps to take.
According to experts, warning signs include:
- Preoccupation with death.
- Intense sadness or hopelessness.
- Not caring about activities that once mattered.
- Withdrawal from family, friends, sports, social activities.
- Substance abuse.
- Sleep disturbance.
- Giving away possessions.
- Risky behavior.
- Lack of energy.
- Not thinking clearly.
- Dropping grades.
- Loss of appetite.
The report was published online April 8 in JAMA Pediatrics.