The rate of emergency department presentations for suicidal behaviour nearly doubles in U.S. youth between 2007 and 2015, new research finds


The average number of children and adolescents in the U.S. presenting to emergency departments with suicidal ideation and suicide attempts is believed to have nearly doubled between 2007 and 2015, according to a new research letter.

The research found that the estimated average number of presentations increased from 580,000 to 1.12 million during the 9-year study period, of which over 43% were aged 5 to 11. There was no statistically significant change found in total Emergency Department (ED) visits during this time, which rose from 26.9 million to 31.8 million annual presentations.

The research, published online by the Journal of the American Medical Association in April, used data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with a research population consisting of children aged 5 to younger than 18 years with a chief complaint or discharge diagnosis of suicide attempt (SA) or  suicidal ideation (SI).  The total number of these youth emergency department presentations is estimated to be around 7.3 million.

The authors of the research letter stated that no conclusions could be drawn regarding the cause for the observed increase, which they believe is likely multifactorial.

The findings support 2018 research that found the rate of hospitalisations for SI and SA in the U.S. at Children’s hospitals had nearly doubled between 2008 and 2015, with “Significant increases” across all age groups and both girls and boys.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in U.S. from childhood up to 34 years of age, and the 10th leading cause of death across all age groups in the U.S.

To reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) in the United States. In the United Kingdom, call 116 123 to reach The Samaritans.

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