Suicide in young people is on the rise with newly published government data finding that, since 2007, the rate of suicide deaths among children between the ages of 10 and 14 has doubled in the United States.
This spike can be seen in places like Washington County, Arkansas where the overall suicide rate has surged to a rate of 12.97 per 100,000 people. To put this statistic into perspective, twice as many people die from suicide in Arkansas than from homicide, and suicide is now the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-34 in the state.
Not Just an Adult Problem
A more detailed examination of suicide rates among the younger population reveals that this is not just a teenage problem, but that younger adolescents are also taking their own lives at an alarming rate. The reason for this worrisome trend is multifaceted, and more research must be conducted to more fully understand the scope of the problem, but there are some known indicators that can help adults identify a child who may be at risk.
Parents and other adults who work with adolescents know that, during the preteen years, the onset of puberty can elicit hormonal shifts for young people. This critical developmental period can be a challenging time, especially when there is upheaval in the home or problems with family and friends.
At times, it can be difficult to discern the difference between developmentally appropriate bouts of sadness and depressive episodes that can signal a clinically significant concern. Experts advise that, while it’s important to be on the lookout for symptoms of depression that can sometimes bring about suicidal thoughts in teens, younger children are more likely to display traits synonymous with or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Other key indicators that a child might be at risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviorsinclude increased irritability, a loss of interest in friends and previously enjoyed activities, and attempts at isolation. And while some dramatic emotional shifts can be a normal part of puberty and adolescence, making statements like “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I could disappear” are not, and certainly warrant adult attention.
Prevention through Education
Currently, there is an unfortunate lack of data on suicide in the young. But as more research is conducted, stakeholders are encouraged to promote suicide prevention programming in schools and other community settings. Further, more treatment centers are offering care which is specifically designed to address mental and behavioral health concerns in children and teens both in Arkansas and across the country.