NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Hospitalizations for suicidal thoughts and actions in children and teenagers have more than doubled in the last decade, according to a Vanderbilt-led study published Wednesday morning.
The study, titled “Hospitalization for Suicide Ideation or Attempt,” looked at trends in emergency room and inpatient encounters for suicide ideation and attempts in children ages five to 17 years at children’s hospitals across the country from 2008 to 2015.
During that time frame, researchers identified 115,856 encounters for suicidal thoughts and actions in emergency departments at 31 children’s hospitals, including Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.
The study found that just over half of the hospitalizations were children ages 15 to 17, while 37-percent were 12 to 14 and 12.8-percent were just five to eleven years old.
“The frightening thing is the average age that someone presents with suicide or depression seems to be decreasing,” Dr. Greg Plemmons, associate professor of clinical pediatrics at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and the lead author of the study told News 2.
Nearly two-thirds of those encounters were girls. While increases were seen across all age groups, they were highest among teens ages 15 to 17.
The doctor said the rise in encounters coincides with the beginning of the school year. The lowest number of admissions is during the summer.
October had nearly twice as many hospitalizations as July, the study revealed.
The reverse is true for adults, Dr. Plemmons said. Adults have an increased incidence of suicide and depression during the summer months.
“I sort of think of it as we’ve moved from a culture of Harry Potter to Hunger Games,” Dr. Plemmons said. “I think increasingly teenagers and youths sort of view the world through a more dystopic lense than maybe say 10 years ago or 15 years ago.”
Dr. Plemmons said the nationwide trends are consistent with the trends he has seen in Nashville.