CDC reports 51% rise in suicide attempts in teenage girls

CDC reports a 51% rise in suicide attempts in teenage girls during pandemic compared to a 4% rise in boys

  • New CDC study found weekly visits to the emergency department for suspected suicide attempts by teenage girls rose 50.6 percent from 2019 to 2021
  • The study also found that among boys in the same age group there was a 4 percent rise in suspected suicide attempts over the same time period  
  • The reported suicide attempts for both genders surged during the pandemic, and increased the longer lockdown and social distancing orders were in place
  • The increase in suspected suicide attempts by young people could be attributed to social distancing, which took away the in-person connections built at school  
  • The increased numbers among teenage girls correlates with data that shows women are more likely to disclose suicidal thoughts and to seek help for them

A new study showed a sharp increase in emergency department visits for attempted suicide attempts by teenage girls during the pandemic compared to a small increase in teenage boys. 

Suicide attempts among 12- to 17-year-old girls surged during the pandemic, and increased the longer lockdown and social distancing orders were in place, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among teenage girls the average weekly visits to the emergency department for suspected suicide attempts from February 2021 to March 2021 was 50.6 percent higher than the same period in 2019, the study said. 

The study said the sharp increase began in May 2020.  

A CDC study shows that teenage girls’ average weekly visits to the emergency department for suspected suicide attempts from February 2021 to March 2021 was 50.6 percent higher than the same period in 2019

A CDC study found that suicide attempts among 12- to 17-year-old girls surged during the pandemic, and increased the longer lockdown and social distancing orders were in place

Emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts include visits for suicide attempts, as well as some nonsuicidal self-harm, according to the CDC.

Among boys in the same age group there was a 4 percent rise in suspected suicide attempts over the same period when comparing this year to 2019, the study said. 

The authors of the report emphasized that despite the findings, the data does not mean that suicide deaths among teens has risen but instead highlights the mental toll the pandemic has taken on adolescents, particularly young women. 

‘The findings from this study suggest more severe distress among young females than has been identified in previous reports during the pandemic, reinforcing the need for increased attention to, and prevention for, this population,’ the authors wrote. 

The increase in suspected suicide attempts by young people could be attributed to social distancing, which took away the in-person connections built at school with teachers and friends, CNBC.com reported.   

The pandemic also made seeking mental health treatment more difficult, leading to an increase in substance abuse while anxiety related to COVID also skyrocketed, CNBC.com reported.   

A CDC study shows that among boys in the same age group there was a 4 percent rise in suspected suicide attempts over the same period when comparing this year to 2019

But the increased numbers among teenage girls correlates with data that shows women are more likely to disclose suicidal thoughts and to seek help for them. 

‘Females are more likely to self-report self-harm or suicide attempts than are males, which may lead to a reporting bias, and a disproportionate number of females coming to the ED for these events,’ Dr. Neha Chaudhary, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School told ABC News. 

Psychiatrists are not sure why the pandemic has affected women’s mental health more than men, but say it could be a combination of factors.

‘Adolescent females have been spending more time at home due to physical distancing and remote schooling allowing them to express mental health distress and talk more about suicidal thoughts and behaviors than ever before,’ Dr. Christine Yu Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention told ABC News.   

‘(This has prompted) adult figures in their lives to take them to the (emergency department),’ she added.    

The CDC study used the National Syndromic Surveillance Program’s national data on emergency departments in 49 states, but not all emergency departments reported consistent data and the study does not break down the numbers by race and ethnicity.

The study also noted that the data found in the study might actually underrepresent the true number of suspected suicide attempts because Americans were hesitant to go to hospitals during the pandemic due to fear of contracting COVID.

For confidential support call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255. 

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