Child suicide is a tragic topic, especially if you or someone you know has lost a young family member or friend to suicide. Discussing child deaths by suicide is a heartbreaking subject, but it’s important to answer the question “why is child suicide on the rise?”
In this article we’ll explore the sad epidemic of child suicide. We’ll look at child suicide statistics including child suicide rates by state, possible reasons why child suicide is on the rise and a few action steps you can take to fight against this serious and growing issue.
Child suicide statistics
Child suicide is on the rise and politicians, school personnel, parents, coaches and others have become more alarmed in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that suicide was the second leading cause of death in the United States for people between the ages of 10 and 24, only behind unintentional injury.
According to America’s Health Rankings, boys are more likely to complete suicide than girls. However, girls often have more suicide attempts. The method of suicide differs by gender as well, and intervention methods may be more effective when designed to target a specific gender.
White adolescents have higher suicide rates than their Asian and Pacific Islander, Hispanic and Black counterparts. American Indian/Alaskan Native children and teens have the highest rate of youth suicide by race or ethnicity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide overall tends to be higher in western, rural states and lowest in New England. You can view the suicide rate per 100,000 citizens in each state plus the total number of deaths by suicide by viewing this infographic.
This trend is true for adults as well as children. Studies examining child suicide rates by state show that the highest number of adolescent deaths include Alaska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and New Mexico. There are many speculations regarding this trend in child suicide rates by state, including social isolation, easier access to the means to carry out suicide and fewer mental health resources available.
Reasons for the increase in child suicide
Scientists, activists and parents have debated the root causes of the rise in child suicide, but it’s become clear there isn’t a single culprit, but many. The following are all potential causes of this upward trend.
It’s been noted that suicide rates increase during unfavorable times, such as economic downturns and social unrest. Data from the National Institute of Health found that suicide rates among adolescents ages 10 to 19 increased in response to the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic, and increased at a higher rate than that of other age groups.
While there is much debate regarding the pros and cons of social media usage among children and teens, it’s clear that one of the pitfalls of social media is the decrease in self-esteem that is correlated with the increased use of social media platforms. Feeling worthless or replaceable contributes to the risk of youth suicide.
Mental health concerns
One of the most predictive risk factors for self-harm and suicidal behavior is a previous history of mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and conduct disorders. The Department of Health and Human Services found that adolescent anxiety increased by 29 percent and depression increased by 27 percent between 2016 and 2020.
There’s no doubt that increased mental health disorders have contributed to the sharp rise in suicide rates among youth. Symptoms like hopelessness, low self-worth, social withdrawal, intense mood changes and so on are all indicators of suicidal behavior and are also common side effects of mental illness.
Bullying and cyberbullying
Bullying has always been an issue among adolescent peers, but internet forums have transformed bullying into much more complex issues. Cyberbullying is harder to monitor and schools and parents may struggle to intervene if the bully remains anonymous or physically distant.
Addressing child suicide
Mental health experts emphasize that prevention will be key to lowering the suicide rate. Education can be an important part of helping the public to recognize the symptoms of potential suicidal ideation so that friends and family members can help these individuals get immediate mental health counseling.
Physicians should be particularly alert to mental health issues in their patients, particularly those in vulnerable age groups or those who are experiencing severe or traumatic life events.
Making mental health treatment centers a visible part of the community can help to dispel the myths around suicide and make it more socially acceptable to not only voice suicidal thoughts to trusted individuals but also to make it easier to find the mental health services needed.
If you know a child who may be at risk of suicide, follow these steps to intervene.
- Know the signs of suicide
- Remove potential means of suicide (removing firearms from homes, security medication, etc)
- Get in contact with a professional interventionalist
If a child in your life presents with suicide warning signs, don’t waste time getting treatment. Call the Light Program now. The Light Program offers evidence-based, comprehensive care for teens and adults facing mental health challenges. Find hope, change and healing today.