Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report on suicide trends among those ages 10-24 in the United States, updated with 2004 data. Alarmingly, the suicide rate appears to have increased 8% from 2003 to 2004 after a period of decline, having decreased 28.5% from 1990 to 2003. A CDC press release notes it as “the biggest annual increase that we’ve seen in 15 years.”
After breaking the data down by sex and age, three groups stood out as having significantly increased suicide rates compared with 2003 – females 10-14 years, females 15-19 years old, and males 15-19 years old. Although suicide rates remain higher in boys, the largest percentage increase was in the group of girls who were 10 to 14.
The researchers also found that the methods by which young women committed suicide have changed – while firearms used to be the most common method for both sexes, hanging/suffocation is now the most common method for girls.
The editors note that it is not yet clear whether this finding is a single-year anomaly, or whether the rate will continue to increase – the FDA’s initial warnings about a possible increase in suicide risk in teens taking certain antidepressants happened in 2004, the year of this new data. They also express concern about changing risk factors for suicide and increased use of readily available means (such as hanging), and point out the lack of available insight into young female suicide:
Scientific knowledge regarding risk factors for suicide in young females is limited. Research that focuses on suicide mortality has emphasized males, who constitute approximately three fourths of suicide decedents aged 10–19 years. In contrast, research on suicidal behavior among females primarily has examined factors related to suicidal thoughts and nonfatal self-inflicted injuries.
If you or a loved one need help with this issue, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800-273-TALK to speak with a counselor and be referred to a local crisis center. You may also want to view this fact sheet on recognizing suicidal behavior and guide for parents.