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Suspected suicide efforts by teenaged girls have increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, based on information published today by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Among children and teens aged 12 to 17 years, the average yearly amount of emergency department (ED) visits for suspected suicide attempts had been 22.3% greater during summer 2020 and 39.1% greater during winter 2021 than during the corresponding periods in 2019.
The increase has been most evident among young girls.
Between February 21 and March 20, 2021, the number of ED visits for supposed suicide attempts was about 51% greater among girls aged 12 to 17 years than during the same interval in 2019. One of boys aged 12 to 17 years, ED visits for supposed suicide attempts increased 4 percent, the CDC reports.
“Young persons might represent a group at high risk because they might have been particularly affected by mitigation measures, such as physical distancing (including a lack of connectedness to schools, teachers, and peers); barriers to mental health treatment; increases in substance use; and anxiety about family health and economic problems, which are all risk factors for suicide,” write the authors, directed by Ellen Yard, PhD, with the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
In addition, the findings from this study suggest there has been”more severe distress among young females than has been identified in previous reports during the pandemic, reinforcing the need for increased attention to, and prevention for, this population,” they point out.
The outcomes were printed June 11 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The findings are based on information for ED visits for supposed suicide in the National Syndromic Surveillance Program, which includes about 71percent of the nation’s EDs in 49 states (all except Hawaii) and the District of Columbia.
Earlier data reported by the CDC revealed that the proportion of mental health–related ED visits among children and adolescents aged 12 to 17 years improved by 31percent during 2020 compared with 2019.
“Time for Action Is Now”
These new findings underscore the”enormous impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on our country’s overall emotional wellbeing, especially among young people,” the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance) Media Messaging Work Group said in a statement reacting to the newly released data.
“Just as we have taken steps to protect our physical health throughout the pandemic, we must also take steps to protect our mental and emotional health,” the group states.
The information, the group states, especially speak to the significance of enhancing suicide care both during and following ED visits by scaling the adoption of best practices, like the Recommended Standard Care or People with Suicide Risk: Making Health Care Suicide Safe and Best Practices in Care Transitions for Individuals with Suicide Risk: Inpatient Care to Outpatient Care.
“These and other evidence-based best practices must be adopted by health care systems nationwide to ensure safe, effective suicide care for all,” the team says.