xi's moments
Home | Americas

Suicide-related US hospital visits rise

By BELINDA ROBINSON in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-05-11 10:40

Suicide-related visits to US hospital emergency rooms have risen fivefold in the past decade as children, teenagers and young adults continue to struggle with their mental health after the pandemic.

Visits by those ages 6 to 24 to the pediatric emergency room for suicide-related problems, including attempts, rose from 0.9 percent in 2011 to 4.2 percent in 2020, research published on May 1 in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows.

Among that same age group and during the same time frame, visits for mental health-related issues doubled from 4.8 million to 7.5 million, the data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey revealed.

Several reasons have been cited for the uptick in visits. The American Academy of Pediatrics warned that the coronavirus pandemic has had a terrible impact on young people, as it severely strained their mental health after they were forced to isolate for long periods of time and attended school from home, missing vital interactions with their peers.

It called the mental health crisis a "national emergency" in 2021, as emergency rooms filled with children needing help after suicide attempts.

Suicide was the second-leading cause of death among children ages 10 to 14 in 2020. It was the third-leading cause of death among those 15 to 24, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found.

Dr Karen Cassiday, past president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, told China Daily: "Although everyone experienced struggles in the pandemic, those who were teens, young adults and parents of younger children appeared to have suffered the most."

In another trend, the rate of children 10 to 12 years old who attempted suicide by poisoning themselves shot up by 73 percent from 2019 to 2021, according to the CDC's April morbidity and mortality report.

The CDC data, derived from the National Poison Data System, found that the children used over-the-counter medicine commonly found in most homes, such as ibuprofen and diphenhydramine, known as Benadryl, or acetaminophen.

"The COVID pandemic has taken such a tremendous toll on the mental health of both our adults and our youth," Dr Lori Pbert, professor in population and quantitative health sciences department at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, told China Daily.

Pbert is part of the US preventive services task force, a panel of health experts that last year recommended that doctors should screen children as young as age 8 for anxiety, because it is often a key warning sign for future mental health problems.

A coalition of experts and organizations have warned that action must be taken quickly to address the nationwide crisis.

In March, President Joe Biden proposed billions of dollars in suicide-prevention efforts in his fiscal year 2024 budget proposal. The measures would begin Oct 1.

The proposal includes $1.65 billion to the community mental health services block grant, which makes funds available to all 50 states that provide mental health services. It would be an increase of $645 million over fiscal year 2023.

At least $80 million would go to expand the CDC's comprehensive suicide prevention program — a grant program that funds suicide prevention in 17 states. An additional $2.5 billion of funding would go to the National Institute of Mental Health, an increase of $200 million from 2023.

Hospitals, community health centers and rural health clinics that want to set up suicide-prevention services would benefit from $25 million in new funding under the Dr Lorna Breen Act. 

The act is named after a New York doctor who died by suicide in April 2020 after treating many COVID-19 patients in the early days of the pandemic. The act champions suicide prevention among healthcare providers and others.

Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349