Teen hospital admissions for suicidal thoughts, self-harm, doubled during past decade, finds study

Mental illnesses have seen a rapid rise over the last few years, especially among teenagers. Since such conditions not only affect the victims but also their loved ones it has led to disturbing the very foundation of a healthy society, the family.

According to a new research conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco in May 2017, the number of children admitted to hospitals for suicidal thoughts or self-harm more than doubled during the last decade.

The study abstract titled, “Trends in Suicidality and Serious Self-Harm for Children 5-17 Years at 32 U.S. Children’s Hospitals, 2008-2015” was presented by lead researcher Dr. Gregory Plemmons, associate professor of pediatrics at the Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee.

Maximum increase in older teens

The researchers studied administrative data collected from 32 children’s hospitals located in different parts of the U.S. This included emergency department (ED) visits and inpatient encounters that were recorded between 2008 and 2015 and had diagnosed suicidal or serious self-harm tendencies among children aged between 5 and 17.

The researchers discovered around 118,363 such encounters at the children’s hospitals. On further analysis, it was found that the percentage of all suicidal or self-harm encounters identified during the study more than doubled over the study period. The percentage recorded as 0.67 percent in 2008 had increased to 1.79 percent in 2015.

Of all the respondents, more than half the patients, i.e., 59,631 patients aged between 15 and 17; around 36.9 percent patients, i.e., 43,682 aged between 12 to 14; and 12.7 percent, i.e., 15,050 children aged between 5 and 11 were diagnosed with suicidal thoughts or actions.

This reflected an annual increase of 0.27 percent for teens aged between 15 and 17, which was the highest among all age groups; 0.25 percent increase for teens aged between 12 to 14 years; and 0.02 percent increase for kids between 5 and 11 years displaying suicide ideation.

Further research needed

The changes in suicidal tendency were not only recorded among different age groups but also varied according to the weather. From June to August, the suicidality and self-harm cases were found to be lowest whereas the percentage was the highest from March through May and from September through November.

Chief Medical Officer of the JED Foundation in New York City, Dr. Victor Schwartz attributes academic pressure as the largest contributor to teen stress. After the 2008 financial depression, a lot of teens feel that if they are not doing well in their studies, they might not have a good position in life, leaving no room for grades B or C. This makes the whole process of education a very “high-stake game.”

Dr. Plemmons said that it is likely that the increase in numbers is due to the improved ability of health care professionals at detecting kids at risk, now. However, such an alarming increase in the numbers warrants research to understand the reasons behind this.

What triggers teen depression?

Teen depression is a serious mental health condition that makes a teen feel low and lose interest in activities he/ she once enjoyed. While it is normal for teens to feel sad and low at times, factors such as hormonal changes, feelings of worthlessness, inadequacy or poor performance at school can double the trouble and increase the risk of teen depression.

Although depression in teens can be diagnosed by observing changes in their attitude or behavior, some of the other common symptoms of teens having depression are:

  • Withdrawal from friends
  • Lethargy or laziness
  • Frequent complaints about pains, such as headaches, lower back pain, or fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Problem making decisions
  • Excessive guilt
  • Reckless behavior and attitude
  • Eating disorder
  • Loss of memory
  • Rebellious nature
  • Persistent sadness and anxiety
  • Sleep disorder
  • Alcohol or drug abuse

Teen depression repercussions

Misdiagnosis of depression in teenagers is common in the U.S., as the condition is often interpreted as bad mood or teenage anxiety. But, this scenario is leading to a number of other increased problems in teen’s life. A few such problems include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Increased risk of alcoholism and substance abuse
  • Poor academic performance
  • Family conflicts and issues in other relationships
  • Social isolation
  • Legal issues
  • Self-harming behavior or tendency
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Eating disorder
  • Reckless behavior

Teen depression help

Teenage depression can be treated using antidepressant medications, psychotherapies such as talk therapy or both. Treating the condition can help a teen gain better clarity about his condition as well as get relief from his feelings of isolation.

Treating depression in teenagers is important, as delaying the same can severely impact his performance at school, academics, friendships and relationships. Therefore, if you know some teen who is seeking help for depression, the White River Academy can help.

White River Academy is one of the leading therapeutic boarding schools that aims to provide the required help to teen boys to recover from their addictions or mental illnesses. The school has state-of-the-art facilities and follows a holistic approach in providing help to troubled youth to recover.

Our 24/7 helpline number is intended to offer dedicated consultation on our treatment plans and programs for depression in teenagers. You can also chat online with one of our medical experts to seek more information about the signs of teen depression and how to recover from the same.

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