Number of Youth Suicides, by Race/Ethnicity
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Learn More About Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury

Measures of Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury on Kidsdata.org
Kidsdata.org provides both the rate of suicides per 100,000 youth ages 15-24, and the rate of hospitalizations for self-inflicted (but non-fatal) injuries per 100,000 children/youth ages 5-20. Suicide attempts and self-mutilation both are included in the rate of hospitalizations for self-inflicted injuries. The number of hospitalizations due to self-inflicted injuries is available overall and by age. In addition, the number of youth suicides is provided by age, race/ethnicity, and gender
Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs
Bullying and Harassment at School
Community Connectedness
Deaths
Emotional/Mental Health
School Connectedness
Injuries
Why This Topic Is Important
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24 nationwide. Though it is likely underreported due to social stigma, reported suicides account for approximately 4,400 deaths a year among youth in the U.S. (1). Youth suicide rates have decreased somewhat in the past 15 years (2); however, youth suicide continues to be a salient public health problem. On a 2011 survey, 1 in 13 U.S. 9th-12th graders reported having attempted suicide one or more times in the past year, and more than 1 in 7 reported seriously considering attempting suicide (3).

Some groups are at a higher risk for suicide than others. Males are more likely to commit suicide than females, but females are more likely to report attempting suicide (1). Among racial/ethnic groups nationwide, American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic/Latino youth have the highest suicide rates (1). In addition, research has shown that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth report suicide attempts at significantly higher rates than their heterosexual counterparts (4). Several other factors put teens at risk for suicide, including a family history of suicide or past suicide attempts, mental or physical illness, substance abuse, stressful life events, easy access to lethal methods, exposure to suicidal behavior of others, and incarceration (1).

Approximately 149,000 young people ages 10-24 are treated for self-inflicted injuries at U.S. emergency departments every year (1). According to data collected by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, poisoning is the most common form of intentional, self-inflicted, non-fatal injury resulting in hospitalizations for 10- to 24-year-olds (5). Compared to adults, adolescents are at heightened risk for self-injurious behavior (e.g. cutting, scratching, etc.), but these behaviors typically are not suicide attempts. The reasons for adolescent self-injurious behavior are not fully understood, though research suggests it can occur for a variety of reasons, such as coping with intense psychological distress (6).

Find more information and research about suicide and self-inflicted injuries in kidsdata.org's Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Suicide prevention. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pub/youth_suicide.html

2.  Child Trends. (2011). Teen homicide, suicide, and firearm deaths. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=teen-homicide-suicide-and-firearm-deaths

3.  U.S. Surgeon General and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. (2012). 2012 national strategy for suicide prevention. Retrieved from: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/reports/national-strategy-suicide-prevention/full_report-rev.pdf 

4.  Haas, A. P., et al. (2010). Suicide and suicide risk in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations: Review and recommendations. Journal of Homosexuality, 58(1), 10-51. Retrieved from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00918369.2011.534038

5.  National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). WISQARS leading causes of nonfatal injury reports. Retrieved from: http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/nfilead2001.html

6.  Nock, M. K., & Prinstein, M. J. (2005). Contextual features and behavioral functions of self-mutilation among adolescents. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 114(1), 140-146. Retrieved from: http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~nock/nocklab/Nock_Prinstein_JAbP2005.pdf

How Children Are Faring
In 2011, 462 California children/youth ages 5-24 were known to have committed suicide: 28 children ages 5-14, 163 ages 15-19, and 271 ages 20-24. The state’s youth suicide rate in 2009-11 was 7.5 per 100,000 youth ages 15-24, slightly higher than previous years, but substantially lower than the rate in 1995-97 (9.4). National comparison data are available from 1999 to 2011; during those years, California's youth suicide rate remained below the U.S. rate of about 10 per 100,000 youth. Statewide and nationally, many more male youth (ages 15-24) than female youth commit suicide. In 2011, males accounted for almost 80% of youth suicides in California (338 of 434).

In 2011, there were 2,933 hospitalizations for non-fatal self-inflicted injuries among children and youth ages 5-20 in California. While the statewide rate of self-inflicted injury hospitalizations has fluctuated over the last two decades, rates have declined substantially since 2001, from 46.5 per 100,000 to 34.7 per 100,000 in 2011. Most counties with available data saw a similar decline. County rates ranged from 21 to 75.9 per 100,000 in 2011. Statewide, the majority of hospitalizations for self-inflicted injuries involve youth ages 16-20: 2,071 (or 71%) of all hospitalizations for self-inflicted injuries in 2011.
Policy Implications

Suicide is considered a major, preventable mental health problem in the U.S. and it is the third leading cause of deaths among teens and young adults nationwide (1). Among all youth, the vast majority of those who commit suicide have a psychiatric disorder, and most of those youths show symptoms that could be identified by screening (1, 2). Many primary care providers do not routinely screen youth for mental health issues, and teachers often lack the training or the time to identify emotional/mental health issues and refer students for intervention (2, 3). Some youth are particularly at risk. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual adolescents are almost twice as likely to report having suicidal thoughts and actions as their heterosexual peers, and report higher rates of bullying and victimization (4, 5). Self-inflicted injury, such as cutting, self-hitting, or poisoning, also is a significant public health concern (6).

According to research and subject experts, policy options that could promote emotional health and prevent suicides and self-inflicted injuries include:

  • Ensuring adequate funding and training for a range of school professionals to recognize the signs of depression, self-injury, and suicidal ideation, and to connect students with appropriate services (2), including specific training for meeting the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth (4, 5)
  • Eliminating discriminatory public policies that can contribute to mental health issues among gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth (4, 5)
  • Encouraging school districts to collaborate with communities and the media to limit publicity and glamorization of youth suicide, to prevent contagion among other vulnerable youth (1)
  • Structuring public health systems and insurance reimbursement policies to require depression screening and encourage regular administration of psychosocial exams to youth (2)
  • Promoting efforts in schools and communities to provide youth with positive experiences and opportunities, such as quality after-school programs, to develop supportive connections with others and skills that will help them make healthy choices and become caring, responsible adults (7, 8)
  • Supporting efforts in schools to offer comprehensive K-12 education for social-emotional development, including interpersonal communication, goal setting, anger management, and advocacy skills, as supported by the National Association of State Boards of Education and the California Education Code (7, 9)
  • Ensuring adequate access to and quality of mental health services for children and youth (2)

For more policy ideas and information on this topic, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section, or visit the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under School Connectedness and Bullying/Harassment at School.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Teen suicide is preventable. Retrieved from: http://apa.org/research/action/suicide.aspx

2.  Dowdy, E. et al. (2010). School-based screening: A population-based approach to inform and monitor children’s mental health needs. School Mental Health, 2(4), 166-176. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2957575/

3.  Cappelli, M. et al. (2012) The HEADS-ED: A rapid mental health screening tool for pediatric patients in the emergency department. Pediatrics 130(2), e321-e327. Retrieved from: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/2/e321.abstract

4.  Marshal, M. et al. (2011). Suicidality and depression disparities between sexual minority and heterosexual youth: A meta-analysis review. Journal of Adolescent Health 49(2) 115-123. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3649127/

5.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender health: Youth. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth.htm

6.  Barrocas, A. et al. (2012). Rates of non-suicidal self injury in youth: Age, sex, and behavioral methods in a community sample. Pediatrics 130(1), 39-45. Retrieved from: http://www.pediatricsdigest.mobi/content/130/1/39.full  

7.  Suicide Prevention Resource Center. (2010). The role of teachers in preventing suicide. Retrieved from: http://www.sprc.org/featured_resources/customized/teachers.asp#role

8.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). School connectedness: Strategies for increasing protective factors among youth. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/protective/pdf/connectedness.pdf

9.  California Department of Education. (n.d.). California education code: Section 51890. Retrieved from: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=51001-52000&file=51890-51891

Websites with Related Information
Key Reports
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury