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Suicide Rate Among Youths Soaring, C.D.C. Reports

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The suicide rate among younger adolescents and teenage members of minority groups is growing at an alarming rate, a study by federal researchers shows.

Between 1980 and 1992--the most recent year for which data are available--the suicide rate among children 10 to 14 years old more than doubled, from 0.8 per 100,000 persons to 1.7.

By comparison, the suicide rate for young people between the ages of 15 and 19 rose 28.3 percent--to 10.9 per 100,000.

The study by researchers from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was published in the April 21 edition of the C.D.C.'s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Of all the groups examined in the study, the suicide rate increased most dramatically for black males ages 10 to 14--tripling from 1980 to 1992.

And for black males ages 15 to 19, the suicide rate jumped from 5.6 per 100,000 to 14.8.

One of the U.S. Public Health Service's national health objectives for 2000 is to reduce the suicide rate for 15- to 19-year-olds to no more than 8.2 per 100,000.

Prevalence of Guns

Guns play a prominent role in the soaring suicide rates, the study says.

About two-thirds of 15- to 19-year-olds who take their own lives do so with a firearm, making it the number-one method. And gun-related suicides accounted for 81 percent of the increase in the overall rate for that age group between 1980 and 1992, researchers found.

"More lethal means are being used in the attempts," said Dr. Alex Crosby, a C.D.C. epidemiologist and a co-author of the study.

Although other reasons for the increases are unclear, Dr. Crosby said such risk factors as substance abuse, mental illness, a history of family violence and disruption, and stress in school or social life may be converging in more severe ways for the younger and minority adolescents.

The dramatic increase in suicide rates for 10- to 14-year-olds "underscores the urgent need for intensifying efforts to prevent suicide" in that age group, the authors wrote. Often, Dr. Crosby said, suicide-prevention programs focus on teenage white males and not on younger children or members of minority groups.

"We don't want that increase to keep on increasing," Dr. Crosby said of the trend in suicide rates. "It would be better to catch it early."

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