An unnerving report from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) released last week notes that the death rate among 10-to-19-year-olds is on the rise. Between 2013 and 2016, the rate soared 12% total. Given that the same rate declined by 33% between 1999 and 2013, so it's no surprise that this trend is striking and disturbing. What's behind the jump? "The top three causes for teen deaths are unintentional injuries, suicide, and homicide," explains Heather Senior Monroe, LCSW and Director of Program Development at Newport Academy. "Unintentional injuries include poisoning—90% drug overdoses—and motor vehicle accidents."
Specifically, the death rate for suicide, the second leading injury intent among ages 10–19 years in 2016, declined 15% between 1999 and 2007, and then increased 56% between 2007 and 2016. The male-to-female suicide rate ratio narrowed over the period as the recent percentage increases were greater for females than males. And firearms accounted for 43% of all suicides.
Meanwhile, the death rate for homicide, the third leading intent of injury death in 2016, fluctuated and then declined 35% between 2007 and 2014 before increasing 27% in 2016.
And of course, an increase in suicide isn't just affecting young people: The analysis found that nearly 45,000 Americans aged 10 or older died by their own hand in 2016, reports The New York Times. The suicide rate has increased across the board—by 25% nationally—and varies by state, the report found. For instance, it was up 6 percent in Delaware, but more than 57 percent in North Dakota. The rate declined in just one state, Nevada, where it has historically been higher than average.
A variety of factors contribute to suicide, including social isolation, lack of mental health treatment, drug and alcohol abuse, and gun ownership.
Obviously, work must be done to right this troublesome course. At home, looking out for certain red flags is key. "Parents need to learn the warning signs for teen substance abuse and suicide in order to be vigilant when it comes to their child’s mental health," explains Monroe.
Monroe says signs of teen substance abuse include, but are not limited to the following: Poor hygiene and diminished personal appearance, inability to communicate, unexplained and sudden weight loss.
Teen suicide warning signs include but are not limited to: Posting on social media about suicidal ideation or wanting to die, icreased use of drugs and/or alcohol, risk-taking or self-destructive behavior.
At the same time, a broader effort must be made by communities, which Monroe encourages to "focus on increasing education and prevention efforts, as well as increasing access to treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders, including suicide assessment when warranted."
She encourages parents to familiarize themselves with helpful info about warning signs and precautions at The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. "If parents notice signs of depression or suicidal ideation, they should take their child to a mental health professional immediately for an assessment," Monroe says. "Preemptively, parents can establish strong communication with their children, and practice unconditional love and acceptance so their children know that they can come to them with difficult issues. In addition, parents can model positive coping skills and stress-relief strategies, and help their children learn these skills and find positive outlets."