New data suggests that already high suicide rates in children and young adults are getting worse, and the COVID-19 pandemic only adds fuel to the fire.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just released information that shows the national suicide rate in 10- to 24-year-olds in the United States has increased by 57% from 2007 to 2018. That is an increase from 6.8 deaths per 100,000 in 2007 to 10.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2018.
In American children and young adults (10-34 years of age), suicide is the second-leading cause of death. Second-leading only to unintentional injury, and rising every day.
Related: My Biggest Fear is My Children Committing Suicide
Mental health experts worry that this is simply an issue that’s not addressed adequately, and the COVID-19 crisis has brought on a new load of mental health issues that we’ve yet to understand the magnitude and scope of.
Isaiah Pickens is a clinical psychologist and the CEO of iOpening Enterprises. In an article with the HuffPost, he said that anxiety and depression can be risk factors for suicidality and that’s been on the rise in this age group. He believes that the uptick has been magnified by social media but that there are many factors that contribute to suicidal thoughts and need addressing.
The report showed Alaska as having the highest youth suicide rate with South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico following behind. The Northwest region of the United States saw the lowest overall rates of suicide, though several states (New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts) had a relatively high increase in suicide rates.
The report didn’t give any causality for the rise, and of course they don’t factor in all the mental health issues that are arising due to the COVID-19 crisis. A survey this summer showed that 7 out of 10 teens were struggling when it came to their mental health. We’re only just beginning to see the effects of adverse mental health and suicidal thought as a result of the pandemic.
Experts warn that we need to talk to children about suicide, and how their feelings can be powerful and are valid. Many parents fear discussing the issue because they don’t want to ‘plant a seed’ in their child’s mind. Psychologists generally say that’s not necessary to discuss healthy mental health focus–opening conversation and discussing how children can come to their parents if they ever feel so bad they want to hurt themselves can make a difference, though.
There are warning signs parents can look for as well. They include:
- Significant behavioral changes–sleeping, eating, interacting
- More irritable and agitated
- Less or no pleasure in activities and relationships once enjoyed
And, experts warn that any type of suicidal statement should be taken seriously and warrants professional help. We talk to kids and warn them about the dangers of sex or drugs, but we shy away from the dangers of mental health and how it can lead to suicide. Our kids need to know there is help and we’re the first place to turn for it.
If you need help or know someone who does, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or you can text HOME to 741-741 for free support from the Crisis Text Line any time of the day. You can give your tweens and teens this info too–even if they don’t come to you, they may turn to these lines and again, it may save their lives.