December 2, 2023

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Why Are Teen Suicides Increasing During COVID-19 Pandemic?

Why Are Teen Suicides Increasing During COVID-19 Pandemic?


Why Are Teen Suicides Increasing During COVID-19 Pandemic?

Reportedly, in the decade leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an increase in suicides among children and adolescents.

However, a study focusing on New Jersey data suggests that part of this increase might be due to changes in how healthcare providers screen and report suicidal thoughts.

The research highlights that while hospital visits related to suicide have increased overall, there hasn’t been a significant change in actual self-harm or suicide attempts.

Instead, diagnoses of suicidal ideation have significantly risen, aligning with updated screening recommendations in 2011 and new coding regulations in 2016.



Why Are Teen Suicides Increasing During COVID-19 Pandemic?


Reports from the decade before the COVID-19 pandemic indicated an increase in child suicide behavior, signaling a potential mental health crisis within this demographic. However, a new analysis of New Jersey data suggests that the reason for this sharp increase might be changes in the way healthcare professionals screen and report suicidal thoughts.

Adriana Corredor-Waldron, an assistant professor of economics at the Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University and one of the co-authors of the study, stated, “One of the purposes of conducting this study was to better understand the reasons behind the increase in youth suicide behavior.”

Corredor-Waldron continued, “We believe there is a mental health crisis among children, with a high incidence of suicide-related behaviors. However, the proportion of children and adolescents seeking medical care due to self-harm and suicide attempts has changed little in the 12 years we studied in New Jersey. Instead, there has been a significant increase in the diagnosis of suicidal tendencies (having suicidal thoughts). This increase is related to changes in how healthcare providers screen and report these behaviors.”

She added, “Therefore, this study underscores how important it is to delve into the driving factors behind reporting health trends. This sharp trend of increased suicide behavior may actually reflect that we are doing a better job at identifying young people who need treatment. That would be good news.”

In this study, researchers examined hospital visit data for children aged 10-18 in New Jersey from 2008 to 2019.

When examining all cases related to suicide, it was found that the suicide rate increased overall during these 12 years. However, researchers found that this trend was driven almost entirely by the increase in diagnoses of suicidal ideation. The timing of these diagnoses’ increase was associated with two factors: revisions to screening recommendations and changes in the “coding” of suicidal ideation.

Screening recommendations refer to guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2011, encouraging healthcare providers to screen girls and women aged 12 and older for depression annually.

Coding refers to the standardized system that healthcare providers use to record patient diagnoses. These coding data are used to identify health trends. Starting in late 2016, new coding regulations required healthcare providers to input suicidal ideation codes when patients exhibited symptoms of suicidal thoughts, even if the primary diagnosis was an emotional disorder.

Corredor-Waldron explained, “For example, before 2016, if a patient had suicidal tendencies and was diagnosed with depression, healthcare providers might only input the medical code for depression. After 2016, they would input both the code for depression and suicidal ideation.”

Researchers found that after the new screening recommendations took effect in 2011, reports of suicidal ideation significantly increased. However, following the implementation of new coding regulations in 2016, there was an even more substantial increase in reports of suicidal ideation.

Corredor-Waldron noted, “It’s important to note that these data come from one state, and each state’s situation is different. Additionally, we don’t have data at this level for the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it would be beneficial to see any changes that may have occurred in recent years.”




Why Are Teen Suicides Increasing During COVID-19 Pandemic?

(source:internet, reference only)

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