chameleon eye | iStock | Getty Images
Suicide attempts increased among 12 to 17 year olds, especially teenage girls, during the Covid-19 pandemic and worsened as social distancing orders and government lockdowns persisted, new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Teenage hospital emergency room visits were already on the rise in early May 2020 as the pandemic spread across the United States, the CDC said in a study released Friday. From the end of July to the end of August 2020, the average weekly number of emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts among girls aged 12 to 17 increased by 26.2% compared to the same period the previous year.
The disruption of daily life with pandemic lockdowns and social distancing orders may have contributed to the increase in suicide attempts, the CDC said. In the spring of 2020, there was a 16.8% drop in emergency room visits among men and women aged 18 to 24 compared to the same period the previous year.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.
In June 2020, 25% of adults surveyed of the same age group said they had had thoughts of suicide related to the pandemic in the past 30 days, in line with 2019. But actual emergency room visits for suicide attempts have all increased. throughout the pandemic, the CDC said.
Among adolescent girls, the average weekly emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts from February 2021 to March 2021 increased by 50.6% compared to the same period the previous year.
Emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts include visits for suicide attempts, as well as some non-suicidal self-harm, according to the CDC.
The data was collected by the CDC from emergency department visit data from the National Syndromic Surveillance Program in 49 states. Not all states had consistent data on emergency department visits, and data on race and ethnicity was not available at the time of the study.
Suspected suicide attempts are often higher among young girls than young boys, but in this study the difference was more pronounced than in previous studies, due to the pandemic. The study indicates an increase in emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts, not an increase in actual suicides, the CDC noted in the study.
The increase in suspected suicide attempts among young people could be attributed to social distancing, including a lack of connection with schools, teachers and friends. Other factors could include barriers to mental health treatment, increased substance abuse, and anxiety about the health and economic condition of the family at home.
Average rates of emergency department visits for mental health issues and suspected child abuse cases also increased in 2020 compared to 2019, potentially contributing to the increase in suspected suicide attempts.
The study notes that the increase in time spent at home for children may have alerted parents to their child’s mental health issues and led them to seek treatment in emergency departments, potentially helping to this increase.
The study also noted that the data likely under-represents the actual number of suspected suicide attempts, as Americans were reluctant to go to hospital during the pandemic for fear of contracting Covid-19.