RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Last week, the Centers for Disease Control reported that in 2014 — most recent year reported — that deaths from suicide in those age 10-14 have risen to the same level as deaths from traffic accidents.
Can you give us an overview of the report from the CDC on Adolescent suicides?
ANSWER: This new report released last week is quite troubling. In all, 425 children ages 10 to 14 killed themselves in 2014. In contrast, 384 children of that age died in car accidents. This is a significant change in the rates of suicides and it rose more sharply for girls than for boys. Depression is at an all-time high in adolescents and this likely is playing a role.
Of note, the data point at which the number of suicides outpaced traffic accidents cross was not only due to the increase in suicide but also a decrease in traffic accidents. Suicide is just the tip of a broader iceberg of emotional trouble, experts warn. One recent study of millions of injuries in American emergency departments found that rates of self-harm, including cutting, had more than tripled among 10- to 14-year-olds.
Why are the factors that have led to this spike in suicides?
ANSWER: Many experts believe that the availability of social media may play a significant role. The pervasiveness of social networking means that entire schools can witness someone’s shame, instead of a gaggle of girls on a school bus. Constant access to online networks means that there is no social down time—and those pressures do not end when a child comes home from school.
More boys than girls killed themselves in 2014 — 275 boys to 150 girls — in line with adults in the general population. American men kill themselves at far higher rates than women. But the increase for girls was much sharper — a tripling, compared with a rise of about a third for boys.
In general, girls dominate visual platforms like Facebook and Instagram—here they can they receive instant validation from their peers—and they can quantify popularity. Online bullying on social media can amplify humiliation and other negative interactions and may play a role in the feelings of hopelessness that may lead to suicide in young adolescents. Girls are also experiencing puberty earlier. That means girls are becoming young women at an age when they are less equipped to deal with the issues that raises — sex and gender identity, peer relationships, more independence from family. Girls experience depression at twice the rate of boys in adolescence
How can parents make a difference and help prevent these tragedies?
- Monitor Social Media use
- Note changes in mood or behavior and TALK to your kids
- Note changes in sleep or sleep disturbances
- Increase participation in positive activities, including sports, drama, clubs, etc.
- Interact positively with your teen