US Girls Self-Harming, Trying Suicide at Increasing Rate

Experts: Cyberbullying, substance abuse, economic stress may be contributing to trend
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 22, 2017 9:30 AM CST
US Girls Self-Harming, Trying Suicide at Increasing Rate
Concerning.   (Getty Images/grummanaa5)

Attempted suicides, drug overdoses, cutting, and other types of self-injury have increased substantially in US girls, a 15-year study of ER visits found. It's unclear why, but some mental health experts think cyberbullying, substance abuse, and economic stress from the recent recession might be contributing, the AP reports. The sharpest increase occurred among girls aged 10 to 14, nearly tripling from 2009 to 2015, from about 110 visits per 100,000 to almost 318. Older teen girls had the highest rates—633 visits per 100,000 in 2015, but the increase after 2008 was less steep. The rising rates "should be of concern to parents, teachers, and pediatricians," says Dr. Mark Olfson, a psychiatry professor not involved in the CDC study published in JAMA. "One important reason to focus on reducing self-harm is that it is [a] key risk factor for suicide."

Researchers analyzed 2001-2015 data on nonfatal self-inflicted injuries treated in ERs among ages 10 to 24. Nearly 29,000 girls with self-inflicted injuries and about 14,000 boys were treated in ERs during the study years. Rates among boys didn't change much; rates in girls were stable until around 2008. The results underestimate the problem, though, since they don't include self-injuries treated in doctors' offices or elsewhere, says lead author Melissa Mercado. Drug overdoses and other self-poisonings were the most common method for all, followed by intentional cutting with sharp objects. All injuries were intentional, but not all were suicide attempts, says Mercado.

(More self-harm stories.)

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