More and more kids are visiting the emergency room for both attempted suicide and suicidal thoughts. According to a new study published on Monday, the number of suicide-related ER visits for children and teens ages five to 18 has nearly doubled since 2007, up from 580,000 to almost 1.2 million in 2015.
“The numbers are very alarming,” Dr. Brett Burstein, lead study author and a pediatric ER doctor at Montreal Children’s Hospital of McGill University Health Centre, told FOX 8, adding, “It also represents a larger percentage of all pediatric emergency department visits. Where suicidal behavior among the pediatric population was just 2 percent of all visits, that’s now up to 3.5 percent.”
The study, which appeared in JAMA Pediatrics, used data from the annual National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers analyzed children and teens from 300 emergency rooms across the country who were diagnosed with suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts.
In addition to the rising rate of visits, they found that the average age admitted was 13 years old and that almost half of the visits (43 percent) were for children between the ages of five and 11.
This came on the heels of a similar study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ journal, Pediatrics, which found that the number of young people visiting the emergency room due to “psychiatric reasons” between 2011 and 2015 was up nearly 28 percent. And in March, another national study revealed that the rate of depression among children and teens had increased over 60 percent since 2009.
The results have many medical professionals calling for improved mental healthcare for children moving forward. In Monday’s research letter, study authors explain that there is “a critical need to augment community mental health resources, ED physician preparedness, and post-emergency department risk reduction initiatives to decrease the burden of suicide among children.”