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

Indicators of "suicidal ideation" (i.e., students who report seriously considering attempting suicide) come from the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) and California Student Survey (CSS). These indicators are made available through a partnership with WestEd, which developed and administers the surveys, and the California Department of Education. The data are provided by grade level, gender and grade level, level of connectedness to school* and race/ethnicity.
* School connectedness is a summary measure based on student reports of being treated fairly, feeling close to people, feeling happy, feeling part of school, and feeling safe at school.
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
Youth suicide and self-inflicted injury are serious public health concerns. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 15-19 in the U.S., according to 2013 data (1). A recent national survey found that nearly 1 in 6 high school students reported seriously considering suicide in the previous year, and 1 in 13 reported attempting it (2). In addition, approximately 157,000 youth ages 10-24 are treated for self-inflicted injuries in emergency rooms every year (2). Self-inflicted injuries are not necessarily the result of suicide attempts; in fact, self-harm without the intent to die is more prevalent than self-harm with such intent (3). In total, suicide and self-inflicted injury in the U.S. cost an estimated $41 billion annually in medical expenses and work loss; actual costs may be higher as many suicides and attempted suicides are not reported due to social stigma (4, 5).

Some groups are at a higher risk for suicide than others. Males are more likely to commit suicide, but females are more likely to report attempting suicide (1, 2). Among racial/ethnic groups nationwide, American Indian/Alaska Native youth have the highest suicide rates (1, 2). Research also shows that LGBT youth are more likely to engage in suicidal behavior than their heterosexual peers (6). Several other factors put teens at risk for suicide, including a family history of suicide or past suicide attempts, mental illness, substance abuse, stressful life events, low levels of communication with parents, access to lethal means, exposure to suicidal behavior of others, and incarceration (1, 2).
Find more information and research about youth suicide and self-inflicted injuries in kidsdata.org's Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Child Trends. (2015). Teen homicide, suicide, and firearm deaths. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=teen-homicide-suicide-and-firearm-deaths

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Suicide prevention: Youth suicide. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pub/youth_suicide.html

3. Swahn, M., et al. (2012). Self-harm and suicide attempts among high-risk, urban youth in the U.S.: Shared and unique risk and protective factors. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 9(1), 178–191. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3315085/

4.  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/index.html

5.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Understanding suicide: Fact sheet. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/suicide_factsheet-a.pdf

6.  Marshal, M. P., et al. (2013). Trajectories of depressive symptoms and suicidality among heterosexual and sexual minority youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42(8), 1243-1256. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3744095/
How Children Are Faring
In 2011-13, nearly a fifth (19%) of California public school students in grades 9, 11, and non-traditional classes reported seriously considering attempting suicide in the past year. Reported suicidal ideation was higher among female (vs. male) students and among students from multiracial and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander backgrounds.

In 2013, 481 California children/youth ages 5-24 were known to have committed suicide: 29 children ages 5-14, 150 ages 15-19, and 302 ages 20-24. The state’s youth suicide rate in 2011-13 was 7.7 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 2013; during those years, California's youth suicide rate remained below the U.S. rate, which has risen above 10.0 per 100,000 youth in recent years. Statewide and nationally, many more male youth (ages 15-24) than female youth commit suicide. In 2013, males accounted for almost 80% of youth suicides in California (354 of 452).

In 2012, there were 3,375 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 since 2001, from 46.5 per 100,000 to 40.1 per 100,000 in 2012. Most counties with available data saw a similar decline. County rates ranged from 17.6 to 82.8 per 100,000 in 2012. Statewide, the majority of hospitalizations for self-inflicted injuries involve youth ages 16-20: 2,175 (or 64%) of all hospitalizations for self-inflicted injuries in 2012.
Policy Implications
Suicide is considered a major, preventable public health problem, and it is the second leading cause of death among teens ages 15-19 nationwide (1). Some groups are at higher risk of suicide, such as LGBT youth, American Indian/Alaska Native youth, and those in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems (2). Self-inflicted injury, e.g., cutting and self-hitting, also is a serious public health concern, affecting an estimated 13%-23% of adolescents (3). While self-injury is a risk factor for suicide, many young people engage in self-harm without intent to die, and most youth who hurt themselves do not seek treatment (3). In fact, most children who need mental health treatment, in general, do not receive it (4). Screening, early identification, and access to services are critical in preventing and reducing mental health problems (4). However, experts recommend that policy strategies go beyond preventing and treating problems, to promoting positive youth mental health (4, 5).

According to research and subject experts, policy options that could promote emotional health and prevent youth suicides and self-inflicted injuries include:
  • Setting school policies that foster a positive, caring environment and promote student engagement in school; and supporting comprehensive K-12 education for social-emotional learning, including problem-solving and coping skills (4, 5, 6, 7)
  • Promoting efforts in communities to ensure youth have connections to caring adults and access to safe, positive activities, such as quality after-school programs and mentoring programs (5, 7, 8)
  • Ensuring adequate funding and training for teachers, school staff, social workers, juvenile justice staff, and others who work directly with young people to recognize signs of suicidal behavior and self-injury, and to refer youth to appropriate services; school training also should focus on how to promote a safe and supportive environment for all students, including LGBT youth (4, 5, 6)
  • Promoting mental health training for pediatricians and consistent screening in primary care settings (4, 5, 9)
  • Supporting public education and awareness campaigns to reduce the stigma associated with mental health problems and increase knowledge of warning signs; this could include “mental health first aid” training for wide-ranging audiences, focusing on how to recognize early signs, provide non-professional support, and help youth access community resources (4, 5)
  • Ensuring that all youth with mental health needs have access to high-quality, culturally appropriate services; as part of this, expanding the workforce of qualified mental health professionals (4, 5)
  • Encouraging the media to limit publicity and glamorization of youth suicide, e.g., keeping coverage brief and not explicit or sensational, to prevent contagion among other vulnerable youth (5, 10)
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 Emotional/Mental Health, School Connectedness, Community Connectedness, and Bullying/Harassment at School.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Child Trends. (2015). Teen homicide, suicide, and firearm deaths. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=teen-homicide-suicide-and-firearm-deaths 

2.  FindYouthInfo.gov. (2015). Youth suicide prevention: Groups with increased risk. Retrieved from: http://findyouthinfo.gov/youth-topics/youth-suicide-prevention/increased-risk-groups

3.  Swahn, M., et al. (2012). Self-harm and suicide attempts among high-risk, urban youth in the U.S.: Shared and unique risk and protective factors. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 9(1), 178–191. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3315085/

4.  Murphey, D., et al. (2014). Are the children well? A model and recommendations for promoting the mental wellness of the nation’s young people. Child Trends and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Retrieved from: http://www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2014/07/are-the-children-well-.html

5.  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/index.html

6.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender health. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth.htm

7.  World Health Organization. (2014). Preventing suicide: A global imperative. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/mental_health/suicide-prevention/world_report_2014/en/

8.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Preventing suicide through connectedness. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/asap_suicide_issue3-a.pdf

9.  Weitzman, C., & Wegner, L. (2015). Promoting optimal development: Screening for behavioral and emotional problems. American Academy of Pediatrics: Clinical Report. Pediatrics, (135)2, 384-395. Retrieved from: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/135/2/384.full

10.  ReportingonSuicide.org. (n.d.). Recommendations for reporting on suicide. Retrieved from: http://reportingonsuicide.org/
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury