ER visits for suicide attempts among US teen girls increased 51% in winter 2021 compared to 2019, CDC report finds
- The average number of ER visits among 12-to-17-year-olds rose by more than 20% in summer 2020 and 40% in winter 2021 compared to 2019
- Teen girls largely drove the increase with a 26.2% rise in summer 2020 and 50.6% spike in winter 2021
- By comparison, average visits for teen boys only rose 3.7% in winter 2021 compared to the same period in 2019
- Health experts say pandemic stay-at-home orders and school lockdowns have increased loneliness and feelings of social isolation in adolescents
Emergency room visits for suicide attempts for adolescents – especially among U.S. teenage girls – rose dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report finds.
Compared with the same period in 2019, the average number of visits among 12-to-17-year-olds rose by more than 20 percent in summer 2020 and nearly 40 percent in winter 2021 compared to the same periods in 2019.
Among teen girls in this age bracket, the increase was jarring – rising by by more than 50 percent in February-March 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed.
The federal health agency says there needs to be an increase in mental health efforts specifically targeted towards teens to help curb suicide attempt rates.
Public health experts say it’s undoubtable that the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in mental health disorders with lockdowns and stay-at-home orders implemented.
This was especially felt by children and teens who were not able to interact with their peers due to school shutdowns and remote learning, leading to increased feelings fo social isolation.
Compared with the rate in 2019, there was 31 percent increase in the proportion of mental health–related ER visits occurred among teens 2020, many of them likely for suicidal thoughts or attempts.
For the study, published in the weekly MMWR report, the CDC looked at emergency department visits from the National Syndromic Surveillance Program between 2019 and 2021.
Researchers determined visits were for suspected suicide attempt by using a combination of diagnosis codes and chef complaint terms.
Among adolescents between ages 12 and 17, the average number of ER visits for suicide attempts decreased during spring 2020 compared to spring 2019 before increasing for both sexes.
During summer (July-August) 2020, average weekly visits were 22.3 percent higher compared to summer 2019
Additionally, the average number of visits in winter (February- March) 2021 were 39.1 greater compared to winter 2019.
The increase was largely driven by teen girls, who saw a 26.2 percent increase in summer 2020 and 50.6 percent increase in winter 2021 compared to the same periods in 2019.
Meanwhile, average visits for teen boys only rose 3.7 percent in winter 2021.
The CDC recommends that public health departments, mental health facilities and schools implement strategies specific to young people.
This includes providing more economic support for families, teaching adults how to safely store description medications and firearms, and training community and school staff members to learn the signs of suicide risk.
‘Suicide can be prevented through a comprehensive approach that supports persons from becoming suicidal as well as persons who are at increased risk for suicide,’ the authors wrote.
‘Such an approach involved multisectoral partnerships…and implementation of evidence-based strategies to address the range of factors influencing suicide attempts, which is a leading risk factor for suicide.
‘Widely implementing these comprehensive prevention strategies across the United States, including adapting these strategies during times of infrastructure disruption, such as during the pandemic, can contribute to healthy development and prevent suicide among young persons.’