Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Don't Ignore Teenage Suicide

We don't typically report suicides at our television station for fear of glorifying the act, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Teenagers are more susceptible than many people know. Here's new research showing the teenage suicide rate is going up.

After 10 years of steady decline, researchers say a recent spike in the teen suicide rate is not a fluke and new prevention strategies need to be developed quickly. The teen suicide rate jumped nearly 20% from 2003-2004. That’s the largest one year change in 15 years.

Now, the most recent stats available (2004-2005) show the numbers are still significantly higher, and experts are concerned this could be a new trend. This study is being published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Pediatric researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio plotted the actual suicide rates from 1996-2003 and based on that trend, they predicted the expected suicide rate for 2004-2005. Then they applied the actual 04-05 rate once it was available. While the actual suicide rate dipped slightly from the spike the year before, it was still 13% higher than it should have been based on the 10 year downward trend. That means significantly more teens committed suicide than anticipated for two years in a row.

Parents and pediatric experts are understandably disturbed about this finding. In the September 3rd JAMA, researchers at Nationwide Children’s call for action: more effort to identify why teens are committing suicide and to develop new prevention strategies.

These researchers say several factors may contribute to the continued high rate of suicides. They include: the influence of Internet social networks/bullying, a rise in military suicides, and higher rates of untreated depression following FDA required “black box” warnings on antidepressants. When the warnings went into effect in 2004, prescriptions of antidepressants dropped 22% - around the same time that teen suicides jumped 18%.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

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Jennifer said...

tayganOh, gosh, that is sad. Our really small town (pop: 1600) has had two teen suicides in 8 years we have lived here and it's just devastating.

The school now uses the Teen Screen program, which is a test that asks questions regarding drug use/depression, etc. and is totally confidential. The test is administered at school, but a mental health group goes over the results and then contacts parents directly if their are any concerns. It's voluntary but most of the kids participate.
I think it's great in that it gives kids that are having a difficult time a non-threatening way to ask for help. (They don't have to actually take a huge step, just answer honestly) And, I think as a parent of a teen that sometimes it's hard to tell when a teen is experiencing normal teen angst and when there is a serious problem.

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