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Study: ER visits for children with suicidal thoughts and attempts have doubled

A new study shows that the amount of U.S. children treated in emergency rooms following suicidal thoughts and attempts doubled between 2007 and 2015. (Dreamstime)
A new study shows that the amount of U.S. children treated in emergency rooms following suicidal thoughts and attempts doubled between 2007 and 2015. (Dreamstime)

A frightening picture of childhood has been painted by a jarring new study.

Between 2007 and 2015, the amount of U.S. children — from ages 5 to 18 — treated in emergency rooms following suicidal thoughts and attempts doubled, the study shows.

A total of 300 emergency rooms were sampled in the analysis, utilizing data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey — which was made publicly accessible. Researchers drew from the sample to record how many children “received a diagnosis of suicidal ideation or suicide attempts each year.”

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics on Monday, explained that those diagnoses skyrocketed from 2007’s 580,000 to 1.12 million in 2015. Affected children were, on average, 13 years old, with 43 percent of the visits attributed to children aged between 5 and 11 years old.

Dr. Brett Burstein, the lead author on the study, called the phenomenon “very alarming,” though child psychiatrists are not quite as shocked.

Case in point: Dr. Gene Beresin, who — though he did not contribute to the study — acknowledged, “Suicide and depression have been rising significantly.”

The most prominent risk factors for suicide are both depression and a previous suicide attempt.

There are multiple possibilities accounting for the spike in both suicidal behaviors and depression, some of which Beresin cites as: “more pressure to achieve, more pressure in school, and (kids being) more worried about making a living than in previous years.”

The increasing influence of social media and, as a result, cyberbullying, he added, might also play a part.

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This disturbing trend isn’t limited to children and adolescents. Beresin pointed out that “rates of suicides have increased in all age groups over the past 20 years.” But this comes full circle when “the stress is passed down to children and teens.”

When studied on their own, none of the aforementioned potential factors have been confirmed as a cause of suicidal behaviors and suicide. When combined, Beresin said, “a pattern begins to emerge.”

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