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Suicide attempts increased among 12- to 17-year-olds, especially young girls, during the Covid-19 pandemic and got worse the longer social orders and locks in government lasted, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Emergency department visits to hospitals among young people increased as early as early May 2020 as the pandemic spread across the United States, the CDC said in a study released Friday. From the end of July to the end of August 2020, the average weekly number of emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts among 1
The disruption of daily life with pandemic lockdowns and social distancing orders may have contributed to the increase in suicide attempts, the CDC said. In the spring of 2020, there was a decrease of 16.8% in emergency department visits among men and women aged 18 to 24 compared to the same period the year before.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline hotline at 800-273-8255.
In June 2020, 25% of respondents in the same age group reported that they experienced suicidal ideation related to the pandemic in the last 30 days, consistent with 2019. But actual visits to the emergency room for suicide attempts increased throughout the pandemic, the CDC said.
In young girls, average weekly visits to the emergency department for suspected suicide attempts increased from February 2021 to March 2021 by 50.6% from the same time period in the previous year.
The emergency department’s visit for suspected suicide attempts includes visits for suicide attempts as well as some non-suicide-damaging self-harm, according to the CDC.
The data were collected by the CDC from the National Syndromic Surveillance Programs emergency department’s visit data in 49 states. Not all states had consistent data for the emergency department, and data on race and ethnicity were not available at the time of the study.
Suspected suicide attempts are often higher among young girls than young boys, but in this study, the difference was more pronounced than previous studies due to the pandemic. The study points to an increase in visits to the emergency department for suspected suicide attempts, not an increase in actual suicides, the CDC stressed in the study.
The increase in suspected suicide attempts among young people could be attributed to social distance, including lack of connection to schools, teachers and friends. Other factors may include barriers to mental health care, increase in substance abuse, and anxiety about the family’s health and financial condition at home.
Average emergency department visits rates for mental health problems and suspected child abuse also increased in 2020 divided to 2019, which could potentially contribute to the increase in suspected suicide attempts.
The study notes that increased time at home for children may have alerted parents to their child’s mental health struggles and led them to seek treatment in emergency departments, potentially contributing to the increase.
The study also noted that the data is likely to underestimate the real number of suspected suicide attempts because Americans were reluctant to go to hospitals during the pandemic for fear of contracting with Covid-19.