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CDC Finds Rising Suicide Rates For Young People


The number of children and young adults dying by suicide continues to rise, and a new report says the trend affects children as young as 10. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published that report. Here's NPR's Rhitu Chatterjee.

RHITU CHATTERJEE, BYLINE: Sally Curtin is a statistician with the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. She and a colleague looked at deaths by suicide for 10- to 24-year-olds in the 21st century and found that the rate had increased since 2007.

SALLY CURTIN: It increased 56% from 2007 to 2017.

CHATTERJEE: For the youngest group, the 10- to 14-year-olds, the rate had nearly tripled to about 500 suicide deaths in 2017. What's troubling, says Curtin, is that the rise in rates for the entire group has been faster in recent years.

CURTIN: Not only is suicide trending upward, but the pace of increase is actually accelerating.

CHATTERJEE: Previous research by the CDC has shown that suicide deaths for all age groups in the U.S. have been raising.

Nadine Kaslow is a psychologist at Emory University and a past president of the American Psychological Association. She wasn't involved in the new research and says the new numbers aren't surprising, but...

NADINE KASLOW: They were extremely disturbing to me to see a significant increase in very young people as young as age 10.

CHATTERJEE: Researchers don't know the reasons behind this rise. Suicide is complex, caused by a combination of risk factors. Kaslow says some factors are especially important for children and youth. For example...

KASLOW: When there's abuse in the home, that can be a factor that really impacts children.

CHATTERJEE: As is substance abuse, she says, and the fact that most kids nowadays are growing up in communities that are not tightknit. Strong community ties provide a source of social support, a key protective factor against suicide.

KASLOW: Even if you feel down or badly about yourself or hopeless and helpless, that you feel loved and cared for and protected.

CHATTERJEE: The new report shows the need for early intervention, says Jill Harkavy-Friedman, the vice president of research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

JILL HARKAVY-FRIEDMAN: Early intervention can be lifetime intervention.

CHATTERJEE: She says interventions should include teaching all kids important social and emotional skills.

HARKAVY-FRIEDMAN: We know that problem-solving and coping strategies and help-seeking when you're not feeling well are key to suicide prevention and reducing risk.

CHATTERJEE: Rhitu Chatterjee, NPR News.


INSKEEP: If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It's 1-800-273-8255.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE LAST SIGHS OF THE WIND'S "VANITY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Rhitu Chatterjee
Rhitu Chatterjee is a health correspondent with NPR, with a focus on mental health. In addition to writing about the latest developments in psychology and psychiatry, she reports on the prevalence of different mental illnesses and new developments in treatments.