Alarming rise in children taken to the ER with suicidal thoughts or attempts, analysis finds

The number of children across the U.S. who have been taken to the emergency room for suicidal attempts or thoughts has doubled since 2007, according to a new analysis.

The report, published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics and based on data extracted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, concluded that diagnoses of suicide-related behavior of children aged between 5 and 18 burgeoned from 580,000 in 2007 to 1.12 million in 2015 – marking an uptick of 2.17 percent of all visits to 3.5 percent in the eight-year period.

The average age of the child sampled for data collection was 13, but some 43 percent of those taken to the ER with suicidal attempts or tendencies were between 5 and 11 years old.

“The trend of increased rates of suicide ideation and suicidal thoughts amongst the most precious of our society is more than alarming: it is also disheartening,” Dr. Melanie Burkholder, a Board Certified Counselor, told Fox News.

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While the causes of the chilling increase are hard to precisely pinpoint, medical professionals say the problem is varied – but not entirely surprising.

“To think that the children are so stressed due to things like academic achievement, social stressors – like social media & cyberbullying on the rise – combined with parents who are disconnected from their kids but plugged-in to their devices, it’s no wonder we are seeing a rise in this in our emergency rooms,” Burkholder continued.

Depression continues to plague America's youth

Depression continues to plague America's youth (iStock)

Dr. Dominic Gaziano, Director at Body & Mind Medical Center in Chicago, concurred that the new analysis signifies a “multifaceted problem,” but a problem he said is largely driven by isolation and an inadequate healthcare system.

“Being on the screens about 10 hours a day on average excluding school does not leave time to develop good communication skills and stress management skills they need for their life,” Gaziano said. “The other difficulty is that teenagers and young adults when they need psychiatric or other help it’s very hard to get mental health appointments in our health care system.”

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In addition, Florida-based Dr. Dena Grayson pointed out, “kids are feeling more stress and pressure to succeed, which may come in part from increased stress felt by their parents that is passed to their children.”

And the suicidal struggles plaguing the young may very well continue to worsen.

“This trend is very alarming and I do foresee the numbers of ER admissions for suicidal thoughts increasing,” noted George Livengood, assistant national director of operations at the Discovery Mood and Anxiety Program. “But there may be a positive side to all of this, which is that parents are now listening to their children more than ever before and are focused on getting them to express their feelings. Parents today are more in tune with their kids and less likely to minimize their distress and take it seriously.”

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However, it’s not only the mental health of America’s children that is continuing to be a growing cause for concern.

Last week, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) further discerned – based on CDC data – that more than 5.5 million patients nationwide visited the emergency department with a “primary mental disorder,” and around 2.4 million were tended to by a mental health professional in the emergency area.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)