There’s a Devil Loose: Number of Young People Visiting Emergency Rooms Due to Suicidal Thoughts and Attempts Has Doubled

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The number of children and teens in the United States who visited emergency rooms for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts doubled between 2007 and 2015, according to a new analysis.

Researchers used publicly available data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, administered by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention every year. From the 300 emergency rooms sampled, the researchers tracked the number of children between 5 and 18 who received a diagnosis of suicidal ideation or suicide attempts each year.

Diagnoses of either condition increased from 580,000 in 2007 to 1.12 million in 2015, according to the study, published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics. The average age of a child at the time of evaluation was 13, and 43% of the visits were in children between 5 and 11.

“The numbers are very alarming,” said Dr. Brett Burstein, the lead study author and a pediatric emergency room physician at Montreal Children’s Hospital of McGill University Health Centre. “It also represents a larger percentage of all pediatric emergency department visits. Where suicidal behavior among the pediatric population was just 2% of all visits, that’s now up to 3.5%.”

The findings come as no surprise to child psychiatrists.

“We know that suicide and depression have been rising significantly,” said Dr. Gene Beresin, executive director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the study.

Depression and a prior suicide attempt are the two biggest risk factors for suicide, and with rates of suicide on the rise, it makes sense for risk factors to increase as well, he explained.

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SOURCE: Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, CNN