Fort Worth, Texas,
11:21 AM

Youth Suicide Rates Rise Significantly Over Decade

Suicide attempts among African-American teens increased by 73%

Suicide rates among young people rose at an alarming rate in the U.S. between 2007 and 2017, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC found:

The CDC collected data from nearly 199,000 high school students by the CDC and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Study.

Kristen Pyrc, M.D., co-medical director of Psychiatry at Cook Children’s, realizes suicide in children and adolescents is a difficult topic for most parents. But she stresses it’s one that can’t be ignored.

“As a mental health professional, my worst fear is a child prematurely ending his or her own life,” Dr. Pyrc said. “As a mother, it is hard to comprehend the profound grief families must feel in the wake of a suicide.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its guidelines to recommend pediatricians routinely check for signs of depression in their young patients. The focus is to carefully screen patients ages 12 and over during annual checkups.

“I have found it is a good way to signal to kids and parents that we are open to talk about this and want them to ask us about it,” said Vanessa Charette, M.D., a pediatrician at Cook Children’s Magnolia office in Fort Worth. “Even if nothing comes up, often a parent will return with the teen later wanting to talk about anxiety and depression.”

While researchers say they aren’t sure of the exact causes for the rising suicide rates, experts point to a rise in depression among adolescents, drug use, stress and access to firearms might all be contributing factors.

Lisa Elliott, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and clinic manager of Cook Children’s Behavioral Health Clinic in Denton, is simply fed up. She’s seen too many kids come into her office depressed, frightened or even suicidal because they can’t get away from their bully or bullies.

“I think that bullying is worse than ever before because of cyberbullying,” Elliott said. “Kids can’t get a break.”

No child is bully-proof. Elliott offers parents the following talking points when speaking to their child about bullying:

  • Even people who say they're your friends can bully you.
  • You should confront your friends when they're being hurtful to you or others.
  • Retaliating may feel good temporarily, but refusing to stoop to the bully's level will win you more popularity in the long run.
  • When you hear a false rumor, just ignore it and be yourself.
  • You're most likable when you respect yourself and others.
  • Bullies usually have their own insecurities. Returning meanness with kindness is the best way to break down their defense.

Elliott advises parents to monitor their child’s computer and cell phone, and encourage them to spend less time on social media. If bullying expands onto social media, then parents should talk to their child’s teacher, coach or another school official.

“Parents should watch for any change in a mood like sadness, depression, hopelessness, irritability, anger, and hostility,” Elliott said. “You may see more tearfulness and changes in activity level. Watch for more withdrawal from friends and family, change in friends and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.”

Elliott says warning signs of teen suicide include:

  1. Alcohol/Drug Use
  2. Preoccupied with death (writing, drawings)
  3. Talking about feelings of hopelessness
  4. Talking about being a burden to others
  5. Telling loved one's goodbye
  6. Decline in performance
  7. Giving prized possessions away
  8. Isolating and withdrawing
  9. Acting highly anxious or agitated
  10. Acting reckless and taking risks
  11. Rages
  12. Changes in sleeping and/or eating
  13. Dramatic changes in personality and/or appearance

If you would like to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call 682-885-3917

Suicide Prevention Number



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