Story at a glance
- A research letter published in JAMA Pediatrics earlier this week found the proportion of suicides among adolescents increased in 14 states during the pandemic.
- Trauma and reduced access to services might have played a role in the worsening mental health state of people.
- The letter is not the first time mental health professionals have sounded the alarm concerning youth mental health during the pandemic.
Adolescent suicide rates have gone up across 14 states, new research shows.
A research letter recently published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics shows that the number of suicides among young people between the ages of 10 and 19 rose during the pandemic across over a dozen states.
Researchers from Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston Children’s hospital sifted through death certificates of 85,000 people that died by suicide in 14 states and compared 2020 suicide numbers to data from 2015 to 2019.
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The letter notes that researchers found the total number of adolescent deaths by suicide and the rate of adolescent suicide increased in Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Virginia and California during the first year of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the total count and the proportion of adolescent deaths by suicide went down in Montana during the pandemic, and data shows the proportion also decreased in Alaska, the research letter states.
The remaining six states examined were Arkansas, Connecticut, Nebraska, Ohio, Vermont and Colorado, and when data was aggregated across all 14 states, researchers found the overall increase in adolescent suicide rates.
Last October, three health organizations, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association, all declared child and adolescent mental health in a national state of emergency.
Health care professionals in all three organizations reported witnessing “soaring” rates of “depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness and suicidality” among children, teens and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to losing a parent to the virus or another hardship caused by the crisis.
On top of that, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released a report in June of last year on the state of child and young adult suicides. The agency looked at data on emergency room visits for mental health-related emergencies in 2019 and 2020.
After comparing the data, the CDC found that the rate of emergency room visits for mental health reasons among children 12 to 17 years old jumped 31 percent during the first year of the pandemic.
It remains unclear though the exact role the pandemic played in adolescent suicide rates since suicides among young people have been on an upward trend for the last 20 years, according to Regina Miranda, a psychology professor at the City University of New York’s Hunter College, who did not take part in the study.
Miranda argues that more data is needed to better understand the relationship between the pandemic and the worsening state of youth mental health. The reasons behind why a young person’s mental health may suffer also varied and can also be by a wealth of factors like age, racial background, socioeconomic status and home environment.
“The pandemic has highlighted the need to overhaul or at least increase investment in youth mental health but also rethink how we’re currently doing things,” said Miranda.
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