The report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States 2011, published last week in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report — examined several teenage suicide trends. It found the attempted suicide rate increased from 6.3 percent of the nation’s high school population in 2009 to 7.8 percent in 2011.
Additionally, the report finds that almost 16 percent of the nation’s high school students seriously considered attempting suicide in 2011, an increase from 13.8 percent just two years earlier.
Compared to 2009 statistics, researchers say that American high school students are generally more depressed, with more than a quarter of students reporting that they felt “sad or hopeless almost every day” for two or more weeks in a row. The 2011 figures, standing at 28.5 percent of the high school population, eclipse the estimates from two years ago, which stood at just 26 percent.
Last year, almost one-tenth of the nation’s female high schoolers attempted suicide, with younger students more likely to injure themselves than their older classmates, according to the report. Researchers say that in 2011, approximately 11.8 percent of female 9th graders and 11.6 percent of female 10th-graders attempted suicide, with 3.7 percent of 9th graders and 3.4 percent of 10th graders requiring medical attention.
According to the report, 13.5 percent of Hispanic female high school students attempted suicide last year, with four percent of the population requiring medical treatment for their injuries. Additionally, the report states that 21 percent of Hispanic female high schoolers considered attempting suicide last year, with 17.6 percent of the population making “serious plans” to injure themselves.
Alex Crosby, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC’s division of Violence Prevention, said that several factors, including acculturation and immigration processes, could be key stressors that lead Hispanic female teens to attempt suicide at elevated rates compared to the general population.
“Suicide is a complex behavior,” he said. “Almost always, there are multiple factors that play a role in a person engaging in suicidal behavior.”
Regarding the general increase in the number of teens attempting suicide in the United States, Crosby lists several factors, including juvenile drug use and the effects of the economic downturn on families.
“It may be multiple factors that play a role, whether it has to do with family stressors, school stressors [or] substance abuse issues,” Crosby said. “It could’ve been a combination, also, that could lead to an increase in the reports of suicidal behavior.”