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Suicide attempts increased among 12 to 17 year olds, especially teenage girls, during the Covid-19 pandemic and got worse the longer the social distancing orders and bans on, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Government continued.
Hospital emergency admissions among adolescents were already increasing in early May 2020 as the pandemic spread in the United States, the CDC said in a study published on Friday. From the end of July to the end of August 2020, the average weekly number of emergency admissions for suspected suicide attempts in 12 to 17-year-old girls rose by 26.2% compared to the same period of the previous year.
The disruption of daily life from pandemic lockdowns and social distancing orders could have contributed to the increase in suicide attempts, the CDC said. In spring 2020, there was a 16.8% decrease in emergency room visits for men and women between the ages of 18 and 24 compared to the same period in the previous year.
As of June 2020, 25% of the same age group surveyed adults reported having had suicidal thoughts related to the pandemic in the past 30 days, consistent with 2019. However, actual visits to the emergency room for attempted suicide increased during the pandemic, according to the CDC.
For adolescent girls, the average weekly visits to the emergency room for suspected suicide attempts increased by 50.6% from February 2021 to March 2021 compared to the same period last year.
Visits to the emergency room for suspected suicide attempts include visits for suicide attempts as well as some non-suicidal self-harm, according to the CDC.
The data was collected by the CDC from the emergency department visit data of the National Syndromic Surveillance Program in 49 states. Not all states had consistent data on emergency room visits, and no data on race or ethnicity were available at the time of the study.
Suspected suicide attempts are often higher in young girls than young boys, but in this study the difference was more pronounced due to the pandemic than in previous studies. The study points to an increase in emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts, not an increase in actual suicides, the CDC emphasized in the study.
The increase in alleged suicide attempts among young people could be attributed to social distancing, including a lack of connections with schools, teachers and friends. Other factors could include mental health barriers to treatment, an increase in substance abuse, and concerns about the health and economic situation of the family at home.
Average emergency room visits due to mental health problems and suspected child abuse have also increased in 2020 compared to 2019, potentially contributing to the increase in alleged suicide attempts.
The study finds that the increased amount of time spent with children at home may have made parents aware of their children’s mental health issues and prompted them to seek emergency room treatment, which may have contributed to the increase.
The study also found that the data likely underrepresented the actual number of alleged suicide attempts as Americans were reluctant to go to hospitals during the pandemic for fear of contracting Covid-19.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.