A new study found the number of children and adolescents hospitalized for suicidal thoughts and attempts has more than doubled since 2008.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents in the United States. Even though mental health issues among children are becoming more widely discussed, access to mental health care services is often scarce.
Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center found an alarming rise in hospital visits relating to suicidal thoughts and attempts among children. The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, identifies which months corresponded with the highest number of hospitalizations.
The researchers examined trends in emergency room and inpatient encounters for suicide attempts and thoughts in children ages 5 to 17 from 2008 through 2015.
Data from the Pediatric Health Information System allowed the researchers to use billing codes to determine the differences between emergency department encounters, observation stays, and inpatient hospitalizations related to suicide.
The researchers also analyzed the data on a month-by-month basis in order to establish seasonal trends in hospital visits.
115,856 encounters for either suicidal thoughts or attempts in emergency departments at 31 children’s hospitals were identified.
The majority of the encounters were girls, and a little over half of the encounters occurred among teenagers ages 15 to 17. The age group with the second highest number of incidents were children ages 12 to 14. Twelve percent of the encounters occurred among children ages 5 to 11.
The researchers found that more encounters occurred during fall and spring and dropped in the summer. The number of incidents in October was double that as reported in July and the researchers say this could be because of the challenges and stresses of school.
“To our knowledge, this is one of only a few studies to report higher rates of hospitalization for suicide during the academic school year,” said Greg Plemmons, the study’s lead author.
The increase in suicidal thoughts and attempts among children and adolescents seems to point to a lack of appropriate care for children who are currently dealing with mental health issues.
“The growing impact of mental health issues in pediatrics on hospitals and clinics can longer be ignored, particularly in a time when mental health resources for children appear to be static, and woefully scarce across the U.S,” said Plemmons.