The suicide rate in children and young adults rose 8% in 2004, according to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This increase is the largest annual increase in suicide rates in more than 15 years.
Following a cumulative decline of more than 28% in suicide rates from 1990 to 2003, the CDC noted that suicide rate for 10- to-24-year-olds jumped by 8 percent in 2004. Girls aged 10- to 19-years-old accounted for the majority of this increase.
The rise followed a sharp decrease in the prescribing of antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil after parents and physicians were confronted by a barrage of warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2003 and 2004.
The warnings led to a broad decline in SSRI prescriptions for all patients younger than 60, according to additional research. Prescription rates continued to rise among those older than 60, and this was the only group in which suicides dropped between 2003 and 2004.
The finding was published on Thursday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
A study was also published in the September 2007 issue of American Journal of Psychiatry which found a similar increase of suicide rates of 14% in children under 19-years-old, from 2003 to 2004.
The data from the study suggest that for every 20 percent decline in antidepressant use among patients of all ages in the United States, an additional 3,040 suicides per year would occur.
“This is the biggest annual increase that we′ve seen in 15 years. We don′t yet know if this is a short-lived increase or if it′s the beginning of a trend,” said Dr. Ileana Arias, director of CDC′s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
“Either way, it′s a harsh reminder that suicide and suicide attempts are affecting too many youth and young adults. We need to make sure suicide prevention efforts are continuous and reaching children and young adults.”
The report is an analysis of annual data from the CDC′s National Vital Statistics System (NVSS). NVSS data are comprised of birth, death, marriage, divorce, and fetal death records in the United States. Researchers looked at trends during the 15-year period by gender, age group and suicide method. It did not examine reasons for the changes in suicide rates.
The decline took place from 1990 to 2003 (from 9.48 to 6.78 per 100,000 people), and the increase took place from 2003 to 2004, (from 6.78 to 7.32 per 100,000 people), the report said.
An increase in the suicide rates for a small set of gender-age groups accounts for the increase in the overall suicide rate, the report said. Rates rose for girls from 10- to 19-years-old and in boys from 15- to 19-years-old between 2003 and 2004. Prior to 2003, the suicide rates for these gender-age groups generally were in decline.
The analysis also found that changes had taken place in the methods used to attempt suicide. In 1990, firearms were the most common method for both girls and boys.
In 2004, however, hanging/suffocation was the most common method of suicide among girls, accounting for 71.4 percent of suicides among 10- to-14-year-old girls and 49 percent among 15-to-19 year-old girls. From 2003 to 2004, there was a 119 percent increase in hanging/suffocation suicides among 10-to -14-year-old girls. For boys and young men, firearms are still the most common method.
“It is important for parents, health care professionals, and educators to recognize the warning signs of suicide in youth,” said Dr. Keri Lubell, a behavioral scientist in CDC′s Injury Center and lead author of the study. “Parents and other caring adults should look for changes in youth such as talking about taking one′s life, feeling sad or hopeless about the future. Also look for changes in eating or sleeping habits and even losing the desire to take part in favorite activities.”
A previously published CDC survey of youth in grades 9 to 12 in public and private schools in the United States found that 17 percent reported “seriously considering” suicide, 13 percent reported creating a plan and 8 percent reported trying to take their own life in the 12 months preceding the survey.
“This study demands that we strengthen our efforts to help parents, schools and health care providers prevent things that increase the risk of suicide,” said Dr. Arias. “We need to build on the efforts dedicated to education, screening and treatment and bridge the gap between the knowledge we currently have and the action we must take.”
CDC′s suicide prevention efforts include expanded surveillance systems for suicide through the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS).
NVDRS is a comprehensive, linked reporting system that collects and centralizes information on suicides and homicides from a variety of sources, such as medical examiners and coroners, law enforcement, hospitals, public health officials and crime labs. As this system evolves, it provides a promising approach to capture data that will help to better understand the circumstances surrounding suicide.
A resource for helping to prevent suicide is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free number, 1-800-273-TALK (273-8255).
Source: CDC, American Journal of Psychiatry