Study finds sharp rise in suicide risk for children

 

Greg Plemmons, MD

The number of school-aged children and adolescents hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or attempts has more than doubled since 2008, according to a Vanderbilt-led study published in Pediatrics.

The study, “Hospitalization for Suicide Ideation or Attempt,” looked at trends in emergency room and inpatient encounters for suicide ideation and attempts in children ages 5-17 years at U.S. children’s hospitals from 2008 to 2015. The study was led by Greg Plemmons, MD, associate professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

During the study period, researchers identified 115,856 encounters for suicide ideation and attempts in emergency departments at 31 children’s hospitals. Nearly two-thirds of those encounters were girls. While increases were seen across all age groups, they were highest among teens ages 15-17, followed by ages 12-14.

Just over half of the encounters were children ages 15-17; another 37 percent were children ages 12-14; and 12.8 percent were children ages 5-11. Seasonal variation was also seen consistently across the period, with October accounting for nearly twice as many encounters as reported in July. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents in the United States, surpassed only by accidents and homicides, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other researchers involved in the study were: Matthew Hall, PhD; Stephanie Doupnik, MD; James Gay, MD; Charlotte Brown, MD; Whitney Browning, MD; Katherine Freundlich, MD; David Johnson, MD; Carrie Lind, MD; Kris Rehm, MD; Susan Thomas, MD; and Derek Williams, MD, MPH.

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