Youth suicide attempts soared during pandemic, CDC report says

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Emergency room visits for adolescent suicide attempts soared this past summer and winter, especially among girls, perhaps in connection to America's struggle with Covid-19, new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data revealed Friday.

There was a 22.3 percent spike in ER trips for potential suicides by children aged 12 to 17 in summer 2020 compared to 2019, according to findings published in the CDC's "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report."

That trend seemed to continue into this recently completed academic year as visits were up by 39.1 percent this winter, compared to the previous winter, the report said.

The data was particularly alarming among among girls aged 12 to 17. Between Feb. 21 and March 20 this year, emergency department visits for potential suicide attempts were up 50.6 percent compared to the same period in 2019, data showed.

And they visited emergency rooms for suspected suicide attempts 26.2 percent more often between July 26 and Aug. 22 than they did during the same time in 2019, the CDC researchers said.

The CDC analysis was drawn from data collected by the National Syndromic Surveillance Program.

"Young persons might represent a group at high risk because they might have been particularly affected by mitigation measures, such as physical distancing (including a lack of connectedness to schools, teachers, and peers); barriers to mental health treatment; increases in substance use; and anxiety about family health and economic problems, which are all risk factors for suicide," according to the report.

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Researchers, though, cautioned against drawing direct lines between these spikes and conditions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted nearly every aspect of U.S. life starting in the middle of last March.

A heightened appreciation about mental health in 2020 might have prompted parents to get their children mental health treatment, they said.

"Conversely, by spending more time at home together with young persons, adults might have become more aware of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and thus been more likely to take their children to the ED," according to the report.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.