Student Well-Being

1 in 7 Students Report Having Seriously Considered Suicide, Survey Finds

By Arianna Prothero — December 16, 2019 3 min read
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One in seven students between the ages of 10 and 18 report they had seriously considered attempting suicide in the 12 months prior to taking an online survey, a new analysis shows.

But for students who are in special education and those who do not identify as either male or female, those numbers were even higher.

Twenty-two percent of special education students report having seriously considered attempting suicide while 21 percent of students who do not identify has either male or female said they had seriously contemplated taking their own lives in the year prior to responding to the survey.

The numbers come from YouthTruth, a nonprofit group that surveys students. For this particular analysis, YouthTruth polled 70,000 students in grades 5-12 from public schools in 18 states. The surveys took place online between 2012 and 2019.

While still relatively rare, suicide is the second most common cause of death among American youths after accidents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it’s on the rise.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741

Female students are more likely to have considered suicide than males—17 percent compared to 11 percent. They were also twice as likely to report that they have experienced prolonged sadness or hopelessness.

Getting Help at School

There are also variations among student groups in how likely they are to report that they have mental health supports available to them in school.

While schools often struggle with limited resources and expertise, they remain a crucial—and sometimes the only—source for mental health services for students. Teachers, principals, coaches, and other staff are important players for recognizing at-risk students and connecting them with resources.

Special education students, as well as low-income students, are more likely to say that they have an adult at school they can talk to when they are having problems.

Fifty three percent of special education students say they have an adult accessible in their school lives compared to 45 percent of general education students. Forty-eight percent of students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, a common measure of poverty, report that there is an adult they feel they can talk to at school compared to 42 percent of all other students.

Students who do not identify as either male or female were less likely to say they had an adult at school they could turn to compared to peers who identify as male and female.

Low-income and students learning English are more likely to report that there are emotional and mental health services available at their schools when they need help.

A majority of students report that they have some coping skills. Sixty-eight percent say they know some ways to make themselves feel better with they are feeling stressed or upset.

Still, suicide—and student mental health in general— remains a major issue facing educators. Suicide rates among school-aged children have been climbing dramatically over the past 10 years, according to the CDC.

Suicide rates for teens between the ages of 15 and 19 increased by 76 percent between 2007 and 2017, while the rate for 10- to 14-year-olds nearly tripled over that same time period.

In the decade prior, the suicide rate for 15-to-19 year-olds was largely stable and had even declined for younger children.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.