Shortly after the onset of the pandemic, when businesses and schools first closed and social life was turned upside down, emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts began to increase among teens aged 18 and over. 12 to 17 years old.
As winter approaches, visits have exploded among girls in particular.
In February and March 2021, hospital visits for suspected suicide attempts, including those for actual attempts as well as non-suicidal self-harm injuries, jumped 51% from the same period in 2019, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Friday. .
Meanwhile, emergency room visits with suspected adolescent suicide attempts increased 3.7% during that time.
The gender differences are consistent with previous research which has shown that adolescent girls are more likely to self-report suicide attempts than adolescents, the researchers said, and typically go to the emergency room for such suicide attempts. higher rates.
“The results of this study suggest more severe distress in young women than what has been identified in previous reports during the pandemic, reinforcing the need for increased attention and prevention for this population,” said the researchers.
The pandemic introduced unique stressors that could have put many young people at a higher risk for suicide attempts, the CDC said, including physical estrangement from friends and family, distance learning, barriers to mental health treatment, increased substance use and anxiety about the health and economic situation of loved ones.
Emergency room visits for mental health issues and suspected child abuse cases also increased in 2020 from the previous year, according to the report, which may have contributed to the rise in suicide attempts among children. teenage girls this winter.
The researchers note, however, that the increase in suspected suicide attempts “does not mean that suicide deaths have increased.”
The study included data on suspected suicide attempts between January 2019 and May 2021 from 71% of emergency departments nationwide in all states and Washington, DC, except Hawaii.
Previous reports have shown that the total number of hospital visits for suspected suicide attempts among people aged 12 to 25 fell 42% in March and April 2020 when the pandemic was declared a national emergency. But in May, the trend reversed for adolescents.
Researchers say prevention strategies specifically targeting young people include limiting access to lethal materials by safely storing drugs and guns, training community members and school staff to recognize the signs. suicide risk and how to respond to it, and improving youth ‘social connections and coping skills. . “
“The large-scale implementation of these comprehensive prevention strategies across the United States, including adapting these strategies during times of infrastructure disruption, such as during the pandemic, can contribute to healthy development and prevent youth suicide, ”the researchers said.
If you or someone you know is thinking about self-harm, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free number at 800-273-TALK (8255) or chat with counselors online here. It is available 24/7.