Suicide is more common among American adolescents now than at any other point since the turn of the century, according to a new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
In 2017 alone, 5,016 young men and 1,225 young women died by suicide in the United States. This is the highest number since 2000, according to the report. Both genders are committing suicide at higher rates, but researchers in the JAMA study discovered different patterns between these increases.
Suicide among teenage girls has been rising steadily since the turn of the century, nearly doubling between 2000 and 2017. Suicide among boys aged 15 to 19 increased modestly for many years and then spiked dramatically over a three-year period.
In 2017, boys committed suicide at a rate of 17.9 per 100,000. The rate hasn’t been that high since the 1980s, when so-called “deaths of despair” dramatically increased in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Oren Miron, lead author of the JAMA report, told the newspaper that several factors have likely contributed to the rise in young people taking their own lives, including higher rates of depression and anxiety and widespread social media use. He also noted that more families are willing to publicly declare suicide as the cause of death of a loved one.
In addition, Miron told the paper that the opioid crisis plays a key role in these numbers, as officials often struggle to determine whether or not overdose deaths are intentional.
Suicides are more common in rural areas most heavily afflicted by opioid abuse, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Mental health experts urge teachers, families, and peers to not be afraid to ask a young person if they feel depressed or suicidal. Depression symptoms such as irritability can sometimes be confused with simple teenage moodiness, reinforcing the need to have open discussions about these issues, psychologist Lisa Damour told The L.A. Times.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 34 in the United States, according to the CDC. The JAMA report emphasizes the need for further research on the reasons behind this disturbing trend.