HealthDay News — The number of children and adolescents hospitalized for thoughts of suicide or self-harm more than doubled during the last 10 years, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, held from May 6 to 9 in San Francisco.
Gregory Plemmons, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and colleagues analyzed data from 32 children’s hospitals across the United States. The team identified 118,363 hospital encounters between 2008 and 2015 where a child was diagnosed with suicidal thoughts or self-harm. Slightly more than half (50.4 percent) of the patients with suicidal thoughts or actions were between the ages of 15 and 17, while 36.9 percent were aged 12 to 14. An additional 12.7 percent of patients were between the ages of 5 and 11.
Significant increases were found in all age groups, but tended to be higher among older children. Teens aged 15 to 17 had the largest increase, followed by 12- to 14-year-olds. The largest increase seemed to be among teenage girls, an observation consistent with other studies, Plemmons told HealthDay.
A second study presented at the meeting found that few teenagers will actually reach for the word “depressed” to describe negative emotions that are weighing them down. Parents, educators, and doctors instead must rely on other clues that indicate depression, study coauthor Daniela DeFrino, PhD, RN, an assistant professor of research in the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine and College of Nursing, told HealthDay. Teens suffering from depression are more likely to say they are “stressed” or “anxious” or “down,” DeFrino said. The researchers drew these clues from interviews conducted with 369 teens aged 13 to 19 at risk for depression who participated in a federally-funded clinical trial.
Children’s Hospitals Admissions for Suicidal Thoughts or Actions Double During Past Decade [news release]. San Francisco, CA: Pediatric Academic Societies Press Office; May 6, 2017. https://www.pas-meeting.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/PAS-2706411-Plemmons-Williams-Suicidality-Trends-PAS17-PR-FINAL.pdf. Accessed May 18, 2017.