For the initial decade of the 2000s, suicide attempts by adolescents involving poisoning had remained flat. Then in 2010 and 2011, numbers started initially to surge, driven primarily by young girls.
Public health officials are struggling to find out what happened.
A fresh study published this week in the Journal of Pediatrics highlights this disturbing trend in rates of suicide among adolescents involving poisoning.
Using information from U.S. poison centers, researchers compiled data for folks ranging in ages 10 to 24 years of age involving the years 2000 and 2018.
Because nearly 20-year period, the scientists documented a lot more than 1.6 million intentional suspected-suicide self-poisoning cases. Seventy-one percent of these were female.
During the initial 10 years, the number and severity of cases stayed a comparable as well as decreased — how many suicide attempts among 10 to 15 year olds actually transpired through that time.
Then something went wrong.
“There’s been an alteration in suicide attempts in adolescents and teenagers,” Henry A. Spiller, MS, DABAT, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and first author of the analysis, told Healthline.
“Something happened to kids after 2010 and 2011. The rate of suicide attempts almost tripled in an exceedingly short period,” he said.
The numbers speak for themselves.
From 2010 and on, the report identifies a a lot more than 300 percent escalation in intentional suicide cases among females ages 10 to 12. For males in the same generation, there was a 150 percent increase.
The following largest increase is among 13 to 15 year olds. Female cases a lot more than doubled (136 percent), while male cases decreased slightly (90 percent).
Females in the 16 to 18 generation also had significantly higher rates of increase than their male counterparts: a 75 percent increase versus 35 percent.
But every generation has been affected. Even the older age brackets in the 19–21 and 22–24 categories saw modest increases, but nowhere near those of younger adolescents.
“This is hard data. They are kids in the ER who’ve attempted suicide. This isn’t a growth in depression or surveys of suicidal thoughts. They are kids who have got that step,” said Spiller.
Self-poisoning could be the leading approach to suicide attempts in both males and females, but it has a relatively low fatality rate — significantly less than 5 percent.
But that might be changing.
The report also details a rise in how many serious medical outcomes from intentional poisoning — again, driven primarily by younger adolescents. In the youngest group, ages 10 to 12, the typical amount of serious outcomes climbed nearly 200 percent. For 13 to 15 year olds, it increased 121 percent.
Older groups saw significant increases in the severity of cases as well.
Despite a success of data, major questions remain for the researchers, including why younger females are so disproportionately affected and why the severity of outcomes is increasing.
There’s also no clear reasons why all this is happening. Is there some socioeconomic driver? Can it be because of social media marketing pressures? These questions can’t be answered yet.
“We’ve had changes in the demands that teenagers face both in their social worlds, in how they’re viewing themselves, and how they’re associated with other people. We all know that such things as hopelessness and lack of connection, and then usage of lethal means and an awareness of how to end one’s life, are factors that contribute to suicidal behavior,” said John Ackerman, PhD, suicide prevention coordinator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
In the meantime, the message needs to be one of prevention and safety, Spiller and Dr. Ackerman agree. Parents urged to monitor all medications