In 2004, suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people 10--24 years of age. This report discusses the rise in suicides among young females who are 10--19 years old and young males who are 15--19 years old. The report also points out that hanging and suffocation and poisoning increased among young females aged 10--19 years. Changes in suicide behavior have happened in certain groups, especially females who are 10--19 years old. Dr. Keri Lubell discusses the importance of prevention and the roles interested adults and health authorities can play to help prevent those rates from increasing further. Created: 9/7/2007 by MMWR.
Date Released: 11/15/2007. Series Name: A Cup of Health with CDC.
A CUP OF HEALTH WITH CDC
Preventing Suicide in Young People
Suicide Trends Among Youths and Young Adults Aged 10–24 Years — United
November 15, 2007
[Announcer] This podcast is presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC – safer,
[Matthew Reynolds] Welcome to A Cup of Health with CDC, a weekly broadcast of the
MMWR, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. I’m your host, Matthew Reynolds.
Suicide is a difficult topic to discuss, but it’s a subject we need to discuss. Not only has
a life been lost prematurely, but victims can leave survivors with endless questions and
lasting pain. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth and young adults
between the ages of 10 and 24. A recent CDC study looked at trends in suicide among
young people. Dr. Keri Lubell, a researcher with CDC’s Injury Center, is here to discuss
the study’s findings, as well as identify the warning signs of suicide. Welcome to the
show, Dr. Lubell.
[Dr. Lubell] Thank you very much for having me.
[Matthew Reynolds] Dr. Lubell, how many youth and young adults are taking their own
[Dr. Lubell] In 2004, there were almost 4,600 deaths among people age 10 to 24 in the
U.S. and that includes both boy and girls. And that number was up sharply from what
we saw in 2003.
[Matthew Reynolds] You just mentioned a sharp increase in the suicides. Have the
rates in this age group gone up in recent years as well, boys and girls?
[Dr. Lubell] Actually, between 1990 and 2003, the rates for this age group had
decreased about 28.5 percent. So we’d been seeing a fairly steady decline. But
between 2003 and 2004, we saw an increase of 8 percent in this age group, and that is
the sharpest rise that we’d seen in that 15 year period.
[Matthew Reynolds] Did you find differences in suicide rates within certain ages
among those you studied?
[Dr. Lubell] Yes. We saw that the increase was most significant for 10 to 14 year old
girls, 15 to 19 year old girls, and 15 to 19 year old boys. And in particular, the increase
for 10 to 14 year old girls was about 75 percent between 2003 and 2004. And if we
break that down and look at specific suicide methods, the increase is even more
dramatic for suffocation and hanging suicides where the increase was 119 percent.
[Matthew Reynolds] That increase in suicide rates is sobering, to say the least. Why is
this; why are we seeing this increase in suicides?
[Dr. Lubell] Well, the data in our study don’t allow us to look at why the increase
occurred. But what we do know is that suicide is a complex issue and it’s multidimensional,
multi-causal and there is never any one reason why a person might kill
[Matthew Reynolds] What are the signs of a possible suicide attempt?
[Dr. Lubell] Well, it’s important for parents and teachers and friends to be able to
recognize when someone is struggling. Things like hopelessness, particularly
hopelessness about the future, giving away prized possessions. In particular, one of the
things that people should be looking out for is someone talking about suicide, talking
about killing themselves, talking about the fact that life would be better if they weren’t
here. It’s very important to take that seriously when someone is talking about killing
themselves. And, even if they’re not necessarily at immediate risk for suicide, it signifies
that somebody is struggling, it signifies that they’re in trouble, and it is an indication that
they need help.
[Matthew Reynolds] People may have friends that they suspect may be at risk of
suicide based on the symptoms that you just mentioned and should take action. But we
may also have friends or loved ones who may be just eccentric or exhibit typically
different behavior. How do you know when it’s appropriate to step in?
[Dr. Lubell] Any time that you think that someone is struggling with something, it’s
never a bad idea to give them some support, let them know that you recognize that they
might be having a hard time. I think the difference is with suicide that – first of all you
want to look for, you know, marked changes in behavior - sleeping, eating habits, things
like that. But in addition, it’s also really important that if you think someone might be
thinking about suicide, if you think that or if you’re worried that they might be thinking
about suicide, one of the things that you can do is ask them directly. You can sit down,
talk with them, let them know that you care, and then you can ask them directly, “Are
you thinking about harming yourself.” It’s important to be able to do that; it helps bring
suicide out of the darkness, out of the silence, and it makes it easier for people if it’s
something that we can talk about.
[Matthew Reynolds] You’ve mentioned steps that people should take if they suspect
someone is at risk for suicide. What do you recommend for preventing suicide or for
preventing a person from getting to that point where they’re thinking about it in the first
[Dr. Lubell] Well there are two things, I think, to keep in mind. The first thing is that
clearly, these changes in rates suggest to us that we really need to be thinking about
prevention early. We need to be thinking about primary prevention and ways to stop
people from becoming suicidal in the first place. And then the second piece is that we
need to be thinking about suicide prevention in broad terms because of its complex
nature. We need to be looking at all of the factors that lead to suicide and to be able to
address those issues before they become a suicidal crisis.
[Matthew Reynolds] If parents or teachers are concerned about someone committing
suicide, where can they can get more information or get help?
[Dr. Lubell] Two places they can go for more information. They can go to our website at
www.cdc.gov/ncipc, that’s the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Or,
they can also call the talk line that’s been established by the Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Administration and that number is 1-800-273-TALK and that
number can provide resources as well as links to local crisis services.
[Matthew Reynolds] Dr. Lubell, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today about
[Dr. Lubell] Thank you.
[Matthew Reynolds] That’s it for this week’s show. Don’t forget to join us next week. Until then, be well. This is Matthew Reynolds for A Cup of Health with CDC.
To access the most accurate and relevant health information that affects you, your family and your
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