Number of Teenagers Attempting Suicide Double

From 2008 to 2015, the percentage of children ages 5 to 17 hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or actions more than doubled, according to data presented  at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco. The study looked at data on suicidal or self-harm diagnoses from 32 children’s hospitals across the United States.

Researchers found 118,363 instances from 2008 to 2015. Accounting for 59,631 (50.4 percent) of the incidents were 15- to 17-year-olds. Twelve- to 14-year-olds accounted for 43,682 (36.9 percent) of them, while 5- to 11-year-olds accounted for 15,050 (12.7 percent).

Over time, the percentage of young patients hospitalized for suicidal thoughts, rather than other ailments, more than doubled. In 2008, 0.67 percent of patients were admitted with suicidal thoughts or self-harming behavior. By 2015, that percentage had increased to 1.79 percent.

The research also revealed a sharp increase in these incidents coinciding with the beginning and ending of the school year — with a respite during the summer.

The report cited a number of factors that could lead to suicidal thoughts such as bullying and abuse, said it is unclear what, exactly, is responsible for the rise. Atlanta-based psychologist Avital Cohen opined that it may have to do with greater stress placed on children today alongside the rise in social media and, with it, cyberbullying.

The research did not look at completed suicides, which was the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24 in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the CDC, the rate of suicide deaths among children between the ages of 10 and 14 has doubled since 2007.

The presentation comes as discussions of self-harming behavior among teenagers are on the rise due to Netflix’s original series “13 Reasons Why” based on the bestselling YA novel by Jay Asher. The show is centered around the fictional suicide of 17-year-old Hannah Baker, who left behind several cassette tapes (13 sides altogether) laying blame for her death on various actions or inactions by different students. The series culminates in a graphic scene showing Baker slitting her wrists and bleeding to death, which has angered many anti-suicide advocates. Headlines, such as Rolling Stone’s “Does ’13 Reasons Why’ Glamorize Teen Suicide?” appeared across the Internet. As The Washington Post’s Bethonie Butler reported, “Experts advise against sensational headlines or describing a suicide in graphic detail, which studies have shown can lead to suicide contagion, or ‘copycat’ suicides.” Nonetheless, Netflix renewed the show for a 13-episode second season, set to air in 2018.