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#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – Since 2007, #Suicide Rates Have Risen Disproportionately in One Group of Teens

These sad statistics are a “canary in a coal mine”

By Emma Betuel


Whether it’s due to social mediapolitical turmoil, or lack of sleep, American teenagers are facing a #mentalhealth crisis. In August 2018, the CDC reported that suicidal ideation had risen among teens in the past decade, and a paper published Friday in JAMA Network Open shows that the rise in completed #suicides has accelerated in one group in particular.

Beginning in 2007, the authors report, the rate of #suicides among adolescent #girls began to outpace the rate of suicides among boys. This finding contradicts the previous pattern in suicide behavior in young adults, sometimes called the “gender paradox.” Historically, boys have taken their own lives at far higher rates than girls have.

Between 1975 and 2016, there were 85,051 teen suicide deaths, and 80.1 percent of them were in teenage boys, according to the new analysis. But now, that the gap is closing, report postdoctoral researcher Donna Ruch, Ph.D., an epidemiologist Jeffrey Bridge, Ph.D., both at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

If you or someone you know is in crisis, read the Warning Signs of Suicide and call the #NationalSuicidePreventionLifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).



   #JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle



A Worrying Trend Among Adolescent Girls

In 2007, female suicide rates in 15- to 19-year-olds started to climb by 7.9 percent per year. The male suicide rate for the same age group climbed just 3.5 percent over the same time period. Ruch called these increases “disproportionate.”

“Overall, we found a disproportionate increase in female youth suicide rates compared to males, resulting in a narrowing of the gap between male and female suicide rates,” she said.

suicide rates
Suicide rates in boys remain higher than those in girls, but the gap is closing as female suicide rates rise at a disproportionately fast rate. 

The data show that the trends are as nuanced as they are tragic. While they didn’t narrow down the exact cause of the increase, they did note an important detail that could explain why the gap is closing.

The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2018 results showed that girls tend to have higher rates of suicidal thoughts than boys do. Between 2007 and 2017, the percentage of girls who seriously considered suicide rose from 18.7 percent to 22.1 percent. In boys, that rate rose from 10.3 percent to 11.9 percent over the same time period.

Boys, however, still have higher suicide completion rates — in part because of the lethality of the method they choose, says Bridge.

“One of the potential contributors to this gender paradox is that males tend to use more violent means,” he said.

Apps like notOK are looking to help people who are considering suicide find support when they need it. 

The new paper shows that girls now are choosing more violent means of suicide than they did historically. If this trend toward “highly lethal methods” is sustained, the authors write, it “could have grave public health impacts and drive elevations in the rates of female suicide.”

Bridge and Ruch paint an increasingly sad picture about the nature of self-harm in teenagers. But with their data, they hope to help stop #suicidalideation before it becomes actionable in the first place.

The Role of Social Media

In an accompanying commentaryDr. Joan Luby at the University of Washington in St. Louis and Sarah Kertz, Ph.D., at Southern Illinois University, point an accusatory finger at social media, which they argue has a foundational role in driving suicides among teens.

Among girls, they write, social media has stronger associations with depression. Furthermore, girls are also more likely to experience cyberbullying and feel greater emotional impacts because of it (cyberbullying is also distressing for men too).

notok app
The notOK app alerts a trusted circle of individuals when the user is in need, and when the problem has been addressed. 

“Increasing rates of suicidality may be the ‘canary in the coal mine’ signaling important health concerns arising from the increased and pervasive use of social media affecting child and adolescent development,” they write.

The hope is that scientists can illuminate this problem in such granular detail that we may one day be able to overcome it. Fortunately, increased awareness about mental health issues is creating new opportunities for teens to seek help, like the Not OK “panic button” app that helps them access help when they’re feeling vulnerable, to bills advocating for mental health first aid training in schools.

Importantly, the people in a teen’s life should remember that they can be critical lifelines. On a day to day basis, individuals can keep an eye out for the people in their lives who seem detached from friends or groups or seem “unhappy for an extended period,” and show support by reaching out — regardless of their gender.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741

selective focus photography of woman in white sports brassiere standing near woman sitting on pink yoga mat

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

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