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Dramatic Increase in Teen Suicide

CDC Reports Largest Spike in Teen Suicide Rate in 15 Years
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As might be expected, this game has resulted in deaths. However, the CDC does not believe that a significant number of these deaths have been misclassified as suicides. It remains unclear whether the game is linked to the growing acceptability of hanging and asphyxiation as a suicide method.

The surge in teen suicide also coincides with a drop in antidepressant prescriptions for teens. This is due to concerns that the drugs may increase suicide risk for a subset of young people. Some psychiatrists feel this drop in prescribing is behind the surge in teen suicides, but Arias says this isn't the only issue involved.

"It is important to recognize that suicide is a multidimensional and complex problem. As much as we would like to attribute it to a single source, we cannot do that," she said. "So while antidepressant medication may have role in suicidal ideation, it not the only factor."

"It is possible that some subgroups of patients do become worse when given antidepressants, but the larger population benefits," Thomas Laughren, MD, head of the FDA's psychiatric products division, said at the news conference. "It is possible for two different things to be happening at the same time. We will continue to monitor suicide rates and antidepressant prescribing and take whatever regulatory steps are necessary."

The new teen suicide statistics appear in the Sept. 7 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Is Your Child or Teen Suicidal?

The increased risk of suicide in young girls presents problems for prevention efforts. In the past, when three out of four suicides were male, suicide prevention focused on boys and young men. Prevention efforts also focused on firearms, which had been the most common method of suicide.

The September issue of the Journal of Pediatrics carries an updated review of teen suicide by Benjamin N. Shain, MD, PhD, of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and colleagues from the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on adolescence.

"Unfortunately, no one can accurately predict suicide, so even experts can only determine who is at high risk," Shain and colleagues note.

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