ER visits for suicide attempts among U.S. teenage girls rose 51% in winter 2021 compared to 2019, CDC report finds
- The average number of emergency room visits among 12 to 17 year olds increased by more than 20% in the summer of 2020 and 40% in the winter of 2021 compared to 2019
- Teenage girls largely drove the increase with a 26.2% increase in the summer of 2020 and a 50.6% increase in the winter of 2021
- In comparison, the average number of visits for teenage boys increased by just 3.7% in the winter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2019
- Health experts say pandemic home orders and school lockdowns have increased loneliness and feelings of social isolation in adolescents
Emergency room visits for adolescent suicide attempts — especially among U.S. teenage girls — increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report finds.
Compared to the same period in 2019, the average number of visits among 12- to 17-year-olds increased by more than 20 percent in the summer of 2020 and by almost 40 percent in the winter of 2021 compared to the same periods in 2019.
Among teenage girls in this age range, the increase was shocking — rising more than 50 percent in February-March 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed.
The federal health agency says more mental health efforts, specifically targeting teens, need to be stepped up to reduce suicide attempts.
The average number of emergency room visits among 12 to 17-year-olds increased by more than 20% in the summer of 2020 and 40% in the winter of 2021 compared to 2019 (file image)
Teenage girls largely drove the increase with a 26.2% increase in the summer of 2020 and a 50.6% increase in the winter of 2021 (above)
Public health experts say it is indisputable that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in mental health disorders with lockdowns and stay at home.
This was especially felt by children and teens who were unable to interact with their peers due to school closures and distance learning, leading to increased feelings of social isolation.
Compared to the rate in 2019, there was a 31 percent increase in the proportion of mental health-related ER visits among teens in 2020, many of whom were likely to have suicidal thoughts or attempts.
For the study, published in the weekly MMWR report, the CDC looked at emergency room visits from the National Syndromic Surveillance Program between 2019 and 2021.
Researchers determined that visits were for suspected suicide attempts by using a combination of diagnosis codes and chef complaints.
Among adolescents aged 12 to 17, the average number of emergency room visits for suicide attempts decreased in the spring of 2020 compared to the spring of 2019 before increasing for both sexes.
In comparison, the average visit for teenage boys increased by only 3.7% in the winter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2019 (above)
During the summer (July-August) 2020, the average weekly visits were 22.3 percent higher than in the summer of 2019
In addition, the average number of visits in winter (February-March) 2021 was 39.1 higher than in winter 2019.
The increase was largely driven by teenage girls, who saw a 26.2 percent increase in the summer of 2020 and a 50.6 percent increase in the winter of 2021 compared to the same periods in 2019.
Meanwhile, average visits for teenage boys rose by only 3.7 percent in the winter of 2021.
The CDC recommends that public health departments, mental health facilities, and schools adopt strategies specific to youth.
This includes providing more economic support to families, teaching adults how to safely store medicines and firearms, and training community and school personnel to learn the signs of suicide risk.
“Suicide can be prevented by a comprehensive approach that supports individuals to become suicidal as well as individuals at increased risk of suicide,” the authors wrote.
“Such an approach has involved multi-sector partnerships… and implementation of evidence-based strategies to address the range of factors influencing suicide attempts, which is a major risk factor for suicide.
“The widespread adoption of these comprehensive prevention strategies in the United States, including adapting these strategies during times of infrastructure disruption, such as during the pandemic, can contribute to healthy development and prevent youth suicide.”
- For confidential assistance, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or click here.
- For confidential support on suicide cases in the UK, call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90, visit a local Samaritans office or click here.
- For confidential support in Australia, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or click here.