Study finds big increase in number of suicides by girls ages 10 to 14

Suicide among young girls between the ages of 10 and 14 is rising disproportionately compared to boys, according to research released Friday by Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

While boys continue to commit suicide at higher rates than girls, the gender gap has narrowed due to a disproportionate rise among young girls. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth aged 10 to 19 years, with suicide rates increasing 33 percent between 1999 and 2014, according to the research.

“This narrowing gap underscores the urgency to identify suicide prevention strategies that address the unique developmental needs of female youth. Future research is warranted to examine sex-specific risk and protective factors associated with youth suicide and how these determinants can inform interventions,” the researchers wrote in their conclusions.

The research analyzed national data on suicides among youth ages 10-19 from 1975-2016. Suicide rates fell during the 1990s, but started to climb in 2007, with rates rising more rapidly for girls than boys.

Experts suggest that better surveillance and reporting contributed to the rates beginning to rise in 2007. The Center for Disease Control’s National Violent Death Reporting System started collecting data on violent deaths, including suicides, from six states in 2002 and gradually included other states, according to NBC News. All 50 states were officially included in the system last year.

“We’re also treating youth depression less aggressively than we were back in the 1990s,” said Julie Cerel, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky and former president of the American Association of Suicidology, who told NBC News that warnings on antidepressants of side effects of suicidal thoughts deterred parents and doctors from giving the medications to teenagers.

Experts believe that more research is needed into the causes of suicide to combat the increase.

“Is it bullying? Social media? Specific entertainment shows? With suicide it’s never just one cause,” Cerel said. “But at the same time, it’s hard to figure out how each of those areas play into the pain teenagers are feeling.”

“Have frank conversations about suicide and hopelessness and pain,” she added. “Be able to ask your kids and your kids’ friends: ‘Are you hopeless? Are you thinking of killing yourself?’”

Cerel told NBC News that having such conversations early on with children could be beneficial.

“Kids with thoughts of suicide have said, ‘I first felt like this when I was in preschool,’” she said.

“Make it a normal conversation very early on, kind of like talking to little kids about stranger danger and inappropriate touching.”
Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher is the editor and publisher of High Plains Pundit. Dan is also the host of the popular High Plains Pundit Podcast.

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