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April 25 2016

Disturbing Increase in Suicide Rates, Especially for Adolescent Girls

Hadley Heath

U.S. suicide rates have reached a 30-year high.

In 1999, 10.5 people per 100,000 died by suicide. In 2014, that number was up to 13 per 100,000. This represents an overall increase in U.S. suicide rates of about 24 percent. This is according to new data released last week from the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Prior to this time window, the suicide rate in the U.S. had been declining steadily since 1986. 

Some experts speculate that economic woes and changes in illegal drug use and access might contribute to the overall increase in suicide rates.  The FDA also issued a rule in 2004 to require a label on some anti-depressants, explaining that these drugs might actually increase the risk of suicide among patients under 26. This may have contributed by discouraging physicians from prescribing these drugs to younger patients. 

There's a little good news in the new data: suicide rates among black males saw a decrease of 8 percent, and rates for people over 75 decreased just slightly.

Every other demographic category saw an increase. The rate of suicide among women rose 45 percent over the 15-year period studied. The most striking increase was the suicide rate for girls age 10-14. While this group makes up a very small portion of suicides overall, the rate among adolescent girls has tragically tripled from1999 to 2014. 

What is driving this increase? 

Further research is needed on this topic. Some people believe that new cultural pressures related to social media and cyberbullying may play a role. Others hypothesize that the increase in suicide among adolescent girls is tied to the earlier onset of puberty. Puberty can be associated with the onset of psychological disorders, including depression, according to experts from the National Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. 

Perhaps this disturbing trend underscores the importance of open communication with young women, especially among their parents, teachers, mentors and friends. Everyone can use some encouragement -- no matter what age or background. Strong relationships can foster a good environment for communication. It's always the right time to remind those people around us how valuable they are to us and to the world, and to ask questions about one another's lives and practice good listening skills.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

IIndependent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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