New CDC Report Finds Disturbing Rise in Suicide Rates For Young People
“Just looking at these numbers, it’s hard not to find them completely disturbing. It should be a call to action.”
An alarming new report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that suicide rates among children and young adults have sharply risen over the past decade.
“Not only is suicide trending upward, but the pace of increase is actually accelerating,” CDC statistician Sally Curtin told NPR.
The rate increased 56% from 2007 to 2017 for 10-24 year olds. The rate nearly tripled for the youngest group studied, 10-14 year olds, with 500 suicide deaths in 2017.
“Just looking at these numbers, it’s hard not to find them completely disturbing. It should be a call to action,” Lisa M. Horowitz, a pediatric psychologist at the National Institute of Mental Health, told the Washington Post. “If you had kids suddenly dying at these rates from a new disease or infection, there would be a huge outcry. But most people don’t even know this is happening. It’s not recognized for the public health crisis it has become.”
Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among 10-24 year olds, only behind accidents. The CDC found that homicides in the age group increased 23 percent from 2014 through 2017 after years of decline. The agency notes that the distressing trends also apply to other age groups, although youth suicide rates are increasing faster than they are for older age groups.
Is Social Media a Factor in Rising Teen Suicide Rates?
Social media and internet use has been blamed as a potential contributor. In 2018, Pew Research Center found that 45% of teens aged 13 to 17 said they use the internet “almost constantly.” Excessive social media use can cause depression, loneliness and anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.”
“I feel like we have too much of a reliance on technology,” Jess Gallo, 19, told Business Insider. “And we don’t really appreciate the value of books or interpersonal communication.”
On the other hand, the Washington Post notes that some studies have found social media to be a positive force for isolated individuals, who find ways to connect with others over the internet. Some argue it has made suicide hotlines and other support networks more accessible.
“The truth is anyone who says they definitively know what is causing it doesn’t know what they’re talking about,” Ursula Whiteside, a researcher with the University of Washington, told the Post. “It’s a complex problem with no easy answers so far.”
“When there’s abuse in the home, that can be a factor that really impacts children,” Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist at Emory University, told NPR. Kaslow said that while the results didn’t surprise her, “they were extremely disturbing to me to see a significant increase in very young people as young as age 10.”
Kaslow and other experts point to substance abuse and the absence of community as driving factors in the feelings of hopelessness and alienation that lead to suicide. Kaslow argues community support is extremely important in helping suicidal people.
“Even if you feel down or badly about yourself or hopeless and helpless, that you feel loved and cared for and protected,” said Kaslow.