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Children's Hospital Visits for Suicide Thoughts or Attempts on the Rise


The percentage of patients seen at U.S. children’s hospitals each year for suicidal thoughts or attempts has increased steadily, with research in the June 2018 Pediatrics showing it nearly doubled between 2008 and 2015. For the study, “Hospitalization for Suicide Ideation or Attempt: 2008-2015,” published online May 16, researchers examined Pediatric Health Information System data from 31 children’s hospitals across the country to identify emergency department encounters, observation stays, and inpatient hospitalizations for children ages 5 to 17 years. Researchers document a total of 115,856 encounters for suicide ideation and suicide attempts during the study period. More than half of these resulted in an inpatient hospitalization (58.3 percent); of these, 13.2 percent required intensive care.  Significant increases were noted across all age groups, although more than half (50.2 percent) percent of encounters were among children 15 to 17 years old. Another 37 percent were 12 to 14 years old, and 12.8 percent were children between 5 and 11 years old. Females comprised nearly two-thirds of encounters (64.4 percent). Increases as a total percentage of all suicide ideation/suicide attempt cases were highest in non-Hispanic Whites (an average annual increase of 0.18 percentage points), followed by “other” (0.09 percentage points), non-Hispanic Blacks (0.09 percentage points), and Hispanics (0.05 percentage points). The study also revealed seasonal variations in the suicidality and self-harm cases, with the lowest percentage occurring during summer (June through August) and the highest during spring (March through May) and fall (September through November). October accounted for nearly twice as many encounters as reported in July, for example. Study authors said that finding suicide ideation/suicide attempt encounters occur more often during the academic school year underscores the need for further research in the role that schools may play.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 66,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds