Rate of suicide among teen girls reaches 40-year high

August 23, 2017 by Paige Cornwell, The Seattle Times

In 2015, five girls out of every 100,000 between the ages of 15 and 19 committed suicide in the United States.

The rate is double what it was in 2007, and the highest in 40 years for that age group, according to newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention.

The reasons for the rise are complex - researchers point, in part, to teens' increasing access to , an ongoing lack of mental-health resources and a stigma against suicidal behavior - and not entirely understood. But for -prevention advocates and researchers, the announcement about the 40-year high wasn't a shock.

"It doesn't surprise me that it has come to this spot," said James Mazza, a University of Washington professor in the College of Education's School Psychology program.

A CDC analysis found that 524 females between 15 and 19 died by suicide in 2015 in the U.S. The rate for females is still much lower than the suicide rate for males - in 2015, 1,537 males between 15 and 19 committed suicide.

But the rising rate among females is troubling, suicide-prevention advocates said, and signals a need for parents and educators to address the stigma of suicidal thoughts and behavior.

And while he can't point to one specific reason for suicidal behavior, Mazza said that social media have likely exacerbated the problems teens face, like the pressure to fit in.

"We have kids who have access to social media 24/7 that's providing extra opportunities, especially with teen girls, to make comparisons among themselves," he said. "There's a hypervigilance of how they fit in. They don't see themselves as like the other girls they see on Facebook and Snapchat. We also need to be worried about boys, as their suicide rates are still higher than girls, and they face increased pressure and scrutiny as well."

More girls tend to have internalized disorders - like anxiety, depression or anorexia - that are difficult for parents or school staff to see if they don't know the signs. A study published in the journal Pediatrics last year found that about 17 percent of teen girls have experienced a in the past year, compared with 6 percent of teen boys. Males have higher rates of ADHD, substance abuse or anti-social behaviors that are easier to spot, so they might have a better chance of receiving help, Mazza said.

And while more teen boys died by suicide, more girls attempt it, noted Aimee Chou, spokeswoman for Forefront, a suicide-prevention center at the UW. Teen boys are more likely to use firearms than females, who tend to use less lethal means, like cutting or taking pills.

In King County, 51 girls between ages 11 and 18 committed suicide since 2000, and 10 used a firearm, according to data from the King County Medical Examiner's Office. In that same period, a third of the 105 boys who committed suicide did so by using a firearm.

Across the state, 26 percent of sophomore girls who answered the state's 2016 Health Youth Survey reported thinking about suicide, and 13 percent said they had attempted it.

Without more intervention, Mazza thinks the numbers will continue to rise.

"I've been writing about this for 20 years," he said, "and I thought the rates were high 20 years ago."

Signs of potential include talking about dying, changes in personality, behavior, sleep patterns or eating habits, and a fear of losing control.

Information, support and referrals are available by calling the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or contacting TeenLink at 866-833-6546. If a teen is in an emergency, call 911 or go immediately to the nearest hospital emergency room.

Explore further: Older adults may need better follow-up after ER screenings for suicide

Related Stories

Older adults may need better follow-up after ER screenings for suicide

August 9, 2017
According to the World Health Organization, suicide rates for men over the age of 70 are higher than in any other group of people. In 2015, almost 8,000 older adults committed suicide in the U.S., and the proportion of suicides ...

Broader firearm restrictions needed to prevent suicide deaths

July 4, 2017
Limiting firearm access only for persons with a mental health condition or those who previously attempted suicide likely is not enough to reduce suicide deaths. The brief research report is published in Annals of Internal ...

Higher rural suicide rates driven by use of guns

August 17, 2017
Suicide rates in rural areas of Maryland are 35-percent higher than in the state's urban settings, a disparity that can be attributed to the significantly greater use of firearms in rural settings, according to new research ...

Warning signs a teen might be suicidal

November 11, 2015
What should I do if I suspect my teen is suicidal?

US suicide rate jumps 24 percent since 1999: study (Update)

April 22, 2016
The suicide rate in the United States has jumped 24 percent in the past 15 years, including a troublesome spike among girls aged 10-14, according to US government statistics out Friday.

Suicides by US girls and young women continue to climb

March 5, 2015
The suicide rate for girls and young women in the U.S. continues to rise, at a pace far faster than for young males, health officials said Thursday.

Recommended for you

Stress in pregnancy linked to changes in infant's nervous system, less smiling, less resilience

November 23, 2017
Maternal stress during the second trimester of pregnancy may influence the nervous system of the developing child, both before and after birth, and may have subtle effects on temperament, resulting in less smiling and engagement, ...

Molecules in spit may be able to diagnose and predict length of concussions

November 20, 2017
Diagnosing a concussion can sometimes be a guessing game, but clues taken from small molecules in saliva may be able to help diagnose and predict the duration of concussions in children, according to Penn State College of ...

Breastfed babies are less likely to have eczema as teenagers, study shows

November 13, 2017
Babies whose mothers had received support to breastfeed exclusively for a sustained period from birth have a 54% lower risk of eczema at the age of 16, a new study led by researchers from King's College London, Harvard University, ...

Obesity during pregnancy may lead directly to fetal overgrowth, study suggests

November 13, 2017
Obesity during pregnancy—independent of its health consequences such as diabetes—may account for the higher risk of giving birth to an atypically large infant, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health. ...

Working to reduce brain injury in newborns

November 10, 2017
Research-clinicians at Children's National Health System led the first study to identify a promising treatment to reduce or prevent brain injury in newborns who have suffered hypoxia-ischemia, a serious complication in which ...

Why do some kids die under dental anesthesia?

November 9, 2017
Anesthesiologists call for more research into child deaths caused by dental anesthesia in an article published online by the journal Pediatrics.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.