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Number of teens who attempt suicide by self-poisoning has doubled

According to new research from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Central Ohio Poison Center, the rates of self-poisoning suicide attempts among teens and young adults in the U.S. have doubled in the last decade. Furthermore, these rates have more than tripled among adolescent girls. This study is published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Prior research has proved that suicide is the second-largest leading cause of death in young people aged 10 to 24. Male adolescents die from their attempts more often than females, however, females attempt suicide more often than males.

The researchers looked at data pertaining to incidence and outcomes from intentional suicide attempts by self-poisoning in adolescents between the ages of 10 and 24 through the years 2000 and 2018. In that almost two-decade timespan, there were more than 1.6 million adolescent intentional self-poisoning cases reported to poison centers in the U.S — 71% of which had female victims.

“The severity of outcomes in adolescents has also increased, especially in 10- to 15-year-olds,” said co-author Henry Spiller, MS, D.ABAT, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “In youth overall, from 2010-2018 there was a 141% increase in attempts by self-poisoning reported to U.S. poison centers, which is concerning.”

The team also found that self-poisoning is the most common method used to attempt suicide in general, and the third most common method for adolescents, especially females.

“Suicide in children under 12 years of age is still rare, but suicidal thoughts and attempts in this younger age group do occur, as these data show,” said co-author John Ackerman, PhD, clinical psychologist and suicide prevention coordinator for the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “While certainly unsettling, it’s important that parents and individuals who care for youth don’t panic at these findings, but rather equip themselves with the tools to start important conversations and engage in prevention strategies, such as safe storage of medications and reducing access to lethal means.

He continued, “There are many resources and crisis supports available around the clock to aid in the prevention of suicide, and suicide prevention needs to start early.”

Ackerman said that parents shouldn’t wait to talk to their children about managing emotional distress until a major crisis has occurred. “Actually, a good time to talk directly about suicide or mental health is when things are going well,” he said.

“A helpful starting point for any parent to increase the dialogue is, which has resources about beginning this important conversation as a family,” Ackerman added. “The American Association of Suicidology and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention also have many resources.”

If you or your child is in need of immediate help due to suicidal thoughts, go to your local emergency room, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. And if you believe an overdose has occurred, call the national Poison Help hotline 1-800-222-1222.

By Olivia Harvey, Staff Writer

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