Report shows 141% jump in suicides among Utah youth
December 11, 2017 0 Comments
A report by the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Violence and Injury Prevention Program (VIPP), released in November 2017, highlighted an urgent public health problem in the state. The data, collected in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), showed that between 2011 and 2015, there was a 141.3 percent increase in suicide cases among youngsters aged between 10 and 17 years. Substantial increases were also observed in youth suicidal ideation and suicide attempts during the period.
Due to the steep increase in suicides and suicidal ideation, the UDOH requested the CDC to conduct an epidemiological investigation (Epi-Aid). The analysis, of 150 suicide deaths between 2011 and 2015, showed that:
- Majority (75 percent) of deceased youth was aged 15-17 years, and nearly 78 percent were male
- Around 30 percent had a history of suicidal ideation/attempt
- 35 percent had a prior mental health diagnosis and 31 percent had depressive symptoms at the time of the death
- 55 percent had experienced a crisis within two weeks prior to death, nearly 24 percent had disclosed their intent to die within a month preceding the death
- Nearly 21 percent had a history of cutting or showed signs of a recent cutting
In an unexpected finding, nearly 13 percent of the deceased youth had experienced conflicts due to a “technology-related restriction” like a mobile phone, laptop or gaming system being taken away by parents or guardians. Among the 40 suicide cases, where information on sexual orientation was available, six (15 percent) were identified as sexual minorities.
Addressing youth psychological and emotional needs critical
As of 2015, Utah’s youth suicide rate of 11.1 per 100,000 population (10-17 years) was over 2.5 times higher than the U.S. average. This represented a significant change from 2007, when Utah’s youth suicide rate was 25 percent higher than the national average.
Kimberley Myers, a suicide prevention coordinator at the UDOH, said, “We continue to see the critical importance of addressing mental health concerns both in relation to suicide deaths and suicidal ideation and attempts.” Michael Friedrichs, Bureau of Health Promotion epidemiologist at the UDOH, mentioned that there were many ways in which today’s youth could feel alienated. “We need to work together across sectors to increase connectedness and reduce isolation,” he said.
Bullying, substance use and demographics also leading to suicidal ideation
According to the report, other risk factors for youth suicidal ideation and attempt included the following:
- Being bullied in school or online
- Past-month substance use
- Demographic factors like being female, non-White, studying in grade 10, and belonging to families with “low parental education”
The findings prompts for further research into the implications of restricting teens’ internet access to understand if it interrupts their access to social support networks or if it represents other factors like anger, distress or deemed punishment. Due to the limited information on sexual orientation and its potential importance in understanding risk/protective factors related to suicidal ideation and other health issues, the UDOH is making efforts to incorporate relevant questions in subsequent surveys.
Social connections and close relationships help check suicidal ideation
The report stated that “supportive social environments were found to be protective for suicide ideation and attempts.” It described supportive social environments as those where youth felt a sense of involvement and respect, and where they were able to request and receive help whenever required. Such supportive environments were identified to include families, schools and community groups. The report also found that the risk was lower in case of students who reported frequent participation in religious activities.
The CDC has recommended several different strategies to prevent youth suicides in Utah. These include adopting policies to increase availability of mental health services for youth, reinforcing family bonds, advocating a sense of belonging and involvement with peers, in school and at home, reducing teens’ access to dangerous means of self-harm, and better identifying vulnerable youngsters.
Preventing suicidal ideation
Internal and external factors may compel youngsters to buckle under stressful conditions, which may sometimes lead to fatal consequences. White River Academy, a leading therapeutic boarding school, offers treatment for suicidal ideation among teen boys aged 12 to 17. Call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with one of our representatives to understand more about teen suicidal ideation treatment and other mental health interventions.