Increase in Suicide Rates and Teen Depression
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report on January 11, 2017, detailing our country’s progress in twenty-six public health categories. The report is based on an initiative called Healthy People 2020, which is comprised of ten-year national health goals set in 2010. Healthy People 2020 calls for improvement in a wide array of areas including, but not limited to, quality of the environment, health care services, and mental health.
The good news is we’ve made progress in many important areas. Since the initiative began, fewer teens are smoking cigarettes, and more people are exercising. The national rates of infant death and preterm birth have both declined.
While we’ve made progress in some areas, others, such as obesity rates in adults and children, have remained stagnant.
And finally, there are three areas in which we have regressed. One is oral health and the other two — you guessed it — are in the mental health category. According to the report, the suicide rate has increased from 11.3 suicides per 100,000 people (in 2007) to 12.6 suicides per 100,000 people (in 2013). In addition, the depression rate in teenagers has increased from 8.3 percent (in 2008) to 10.7 percent (in 2013).
A significant increase in teen depression as well as an increase in the suicide rate. What’s going on with us?
One possible reason for the increase in the depression rate might actually be a good thing. Greater awareness of mental health issues, specifically depression, might help parents, doctors, teachers, and teens themselves recognize the symptoms and then hopefully seek help. In other words, maybe the rate of depression isn’t actually higher than in the past, it is just being recognized and acknowledged more.
But is that the whole story? I think it would be naïve to believe that. There are so many other factors that might be contributing to this rise in mental health issues.
Drug use, both legal and illegal, can certainly come into play when talking about teen depression and suicide in general. The over-prescribing and misuse of prescription medications such as opioids has become rampant and illegal drug use — heroin for example — is alive and well. Ironically, anti-depressants and antipsychotics are both known to sometimes cause depression and/or suicidal thoughts in children, teens, and young adults.