Study: Teen Suicide Rate Is Still Disturbingly High In United States

Study: Teen Suicide Rate Is Still Disturbingly High In United StatesU.S. researchers have warned that though the teen suicide rate has fallen slightly it is still disturbingly high and should be taken seriously. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said teen suicide rates showed a large increase of 18 % in 2004, which was far higher than anticipated, based on earlier trends and reversing more than a decade of declines. Suicide rates had been declining in the 10 – 19 year olds since 1996.  In 2005, the rates dropped by 5 % to 4.5 % per 100,000 possibly due to government’s drug warnings as well as warnings about the use of anti-depressants.

Jeff Bridge of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, whose study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association said, "While there has been a decline in 2005, it hasn't brought us back to where we would expect rates to be."

Bridge and colleagues studied data from the National Vital Statistics Systems at the CDC on suicides among youth aged 10 to 19 in 2005. They compared the suicide rates in 2004 and 2005 to expected suicide rates on data from 1996 to 2003. They found suicide rates fell to 4.49 per 100,000 in 2005 as compared to 4.74 per 100,000 in 2004 though these were still substantially higher than earlier counts. Despite the drop there were 292 more suicides than were expected in 2005 and 326 more than expected in 2004 which meant that the increase in suicide rates of 2004 persisted in 2005.

Dr. David Fassler, a psychiatry professor at the University of Vermont, said the report shows a "very disturbing" upward trend which seems to be linked with a decline in teen use of antidepressants. Depression is the number one cause for suicides and it is the third biggest killer of children and adults in the age group of 10-24 years. Fassler, who wasn't involved in the new study, believes anti-depressant drugs benefits far outweigh the risks.

"Attention must now be directed toward understanding whether this increase in the youth suicide rate after a decade-long decline reflects an emerging public health crisis," Bridge said.

Patrick Tolan, director of the University of Illinois-Chicago's juvenile research institute, said, “though it is important to continue tracking teen suicides to see if the rate continues to reduce or stays at a higher level than expected, as suicide is a leading cause of death in teens it is "a major public health issue.”

Bridge feels his study may not be able to answer whether warnings about suicide risks linked with antidepressant use caused fewer troubled teens to get treatment. There were other reasons and risk factors which could contribute such as alcohol use, access to firearms, influence of Internet social networking sites and increases in suicide among U.S. troops, which could include some older adolescents.

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