Suicidal Ideation (Student Reported), by Grade Level
Definition: Estimated percentage of public school students in grades 9, 11, and non-traditional programs who seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous year (e.g., in 2017-2019, an estimated 15.8% of California 9th graders seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous year).
Footnote: Years presented comprise two school years (e.g., 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years are shown as 2017-2019). County- and state-level data are weighted estimates; school district-level data are unweighted. Students in non-traditional programs are those enrolled in community day schools or continuation education. The notation S refers to (a) data for school districts that have been suppressed because there were fewer than 10 respondents in that group, and (b) data for counties that have been suppressed because the sample was too small to be representative. N/A means that data are not available.
Learn More About Youth Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury
Measures of Youth Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury on Kidsdata.org
Kidsdata.org provides the following indicators of youth suicide and self-inflicted injury:
*Levels of school connectedness are based on a scale created from responses to five questions about feeling safe, close to people, and a part of school, being happy at school, and about teachers treating students fairly.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10-19 in the U.S., and rates of youth suicide and self-injury hospitalization are on the rise, especially among younger adolescents (1, 2). A 2019 survey estimated that about 1 in 5 high school students nationwide seriously considered suicide in the previous year, a figure more than 35% higher than findings from a decade earlier (3). Between 2007 and 2015, suicide rates rose 130% for U.S. children ages 10-14 and 46% for youth ages 15-19 (2). Similar to suicide trends, from 2001 to 2015 self-injury hospitalization rates increased by more than 130% for ages 10-14 and by 47% for ages 15-19 (2). While self-inflicted injuries typically are not the result of suicide attempts and do not involve intent to die, non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is a risk factor for suicide (4). Data from a 2015 national survey show that in the previous year 18% of high school students had engaged in NSSI at least once, and 6% had engaged in NSSI six or more times (4).
Suicide risk is higher for some groups than for others. While female youth more often attempt suicide, males are more likely than females to die by suicide—although the gap is narrowing (1, 3). Nationally, American Indian/Alaska Native youth have the highest suicide rate among racial/ethnic groups with data (2). In addition, sexual and gender minority youth are more likely to engage in suicidal behavior than their non-LGBTQ peers (3, 5). Other common risk factors for youth suicide include mental illness, past suicide attempts, a family history of suicide or mental disorders, poor family communication, stressful life events, access to lethal means, and exposure to suicidal behavior of others (6).
Find more information about youth suicide and self-injury in kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
2. Ballesteros, M. F., et al. (2018). The epidemiology of unintentional and violence-related injury morbidity and mortality among children and adolescents in the United States. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(4), 616. Retrieved from:
5. Johns, M. M., et al. (2019). Transgender identity and experiences of violence victimization, substance use, suicide risk, and sexual risk behaviors among high school students—19 states and large urban school districts, 2017. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 68(3), 67-71. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/mm6803a3.htm
In 2017-2019, an estimated 16% of California 9th and 11th graders and 17% of non-traditional students seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous year. At least 20% of girls in each grade level seriously considered suicide, compared with less than 13% of boys. Students with low levels of school connectedness were much more likely to have serious suicidal thoughts (32%) than their peers with medium (19%) or high (9%) connectedness. The proportion of gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth who seriously considered attempting suicide (44%) was about one and a half times the estimate for students unsure of their sexual orientation (29%) and more than three times the estimate for straight youth (13%).
The rate of hospitalization for non-fatal self-inflicted injuries among California children and youth ages 5-20 was 37 per 100,000 in 2015, down from 49 per 100,000 in 1991. While the state's rate of self-inflicted injury hospitalization has fluctuated over time, it has remained lower than the U.S. rate since 2010. Across counties with data in 2015, hospitalization rates for self-injury ranged from 22 per 100,000 young people (San Bernardino) to 68 per 100,000 (San Mateo). Youth ages 16-20 account for the majority of discharges for self-inflicted injuries statewide: 1,949 of 3,136 in 2015 (62%).
In 2017, 186 California teens ages 15-19 and 327 young adults ages 20-24 were known to have committed suicide. Statewide, the rate of youth suicide was 8.2 per 100,000 in 2015-2017, down from 9.4 per 100,000 in 1995-1997. Since 1999-2001—the first time period for which national comparison data are available—California's youth suicide rate has been lower than the U.S. rate, which has risen above 10 per 100,000 in recent years. Statewide and nationally, many more male than female youth die by suicide; in 2017, males accounted for nearly 80% of youth suicides in California (406 of 513).
Youth suicide and self-inflicted injury are complex issues that are not caused by any single factor. Addressing these prevalent, preventable public health problems requires comprehensive, cross-sector commitments focused on risk and protective factors at the individual, family, community, and system levels (1, 2). Additionally, experts recommend that policy strategies go beyond preventing and treating problems to promoting positive mental health (1, 3).
Screening, early identification, access to services, and receipt of services are critical in preventing and reducing mental health problems associated with suicidal behavior (2). Youth who hurt themselves without suicidal intent are at risk for suicide and do not often seek treatment (4). In fact, most youth who need mental health services, in general, do not receive them (3, 5).
California law requires public school districts and charter schools serving Grades 7-12 to establish suicide prevention policies that address high-risk groups, including LGBTQ youth, those who are homeless or in out-of-home settings, youth bereaved by suicide, and youth with mental health problems, disabilities, or substance use disorders (1).
Policy and practice options to prevent suicide and self-injury and promote youth mental health include:
Continuing to support K-12 schools in creating positive school climates and implementing a whole-child approach to education that includes evidence-based systems to address students’ physical, emotional, behavioral, and other needs; related to this, promoting efforts to integrate social-emotional learning—such as problem-solving, help-seeking, and coping skills—into PreK-12 education (1, 2, 6, 7)
In accordance with California law, ensuring effective implementation of suicide prevention policies in public and charter schools serving Grades 7-12; also, encouraging K-6 and private schools to establish similar policies, and urging all schools to develop clear protocols for addressing non-suicidal self-injury (1, 6)
Assuring adequate training for those who work directly with youth—teachers, school staff, coaches, clergy, juvenile justice staff, and others—to recognize signs of suicidal behavior and self-injury and to respond effectively, including helping youth find and receive services (1, 2, 6)
Promoting health care systems change to support mental health and prevent suicide and self-injury, including enhanced workforce training, systematic screening and risk assessment, and improved coordination and continuity of care (2)
Ensuring that all youth with mental health needs have access to high-quality, culturally appropriate services with consistent coverage through insurance plans; as part of this, expanding the workforce of qualified mental health professionals, especially in underserved communities (2)
Ensuring that families have access to affordable, high-quality parenting and relationship skills programs, which help improve family interactions and children's emotional health (2)
Promoting community efforts to provide youth with connections to caring adults and access to safe, positive activities, such as quality mentoring, after-school, and social norming programs, particularly in communities with limited resources (1, 2)
Promoting local strategies to reduce access to lethal means (e.g., bridges and railway tracks) and improve safe storage of medications, firearms, and other lethal items (2)
Supporting public education to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, increase help-seeking, and improve knowledge of warning signs and appropriate responses (2, 6)
Encouraging media to avoid sensationalizing youth suicide (e.g., by keeping coverage brief and not explicit), which can help prevent contagion, and to balance suicide coverage with prevention messages, stories of hope, and resources for help (2)