Student Well-Being What the Research Says

CDC: Child, Teen Suicide Rates Fell in 2022

By Sarah D. Sparks — November 29, 2023 2 min read
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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.

While overall suicide rates continue to rise, fewer adolescents and young adults are taking their lives, according to federal data released this week.

The findings are a bright spot amid an ongoing national mental health crisis, but experts say it’s too early to tell whether young people are starting to turn the corner on widescale depression and anxiety.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s preliminary suicide data for 2022 show the overall suicide rate ticked up in the past year from 14.1 to 14.3 among every 100,000 Americans.

That includes nearly 500 suicides among children ages 10-14 and more than 6,000 among young adults ages 15-24—the first decline in suicides for young people since a pre-pandemic spike in 2019.

Suicides among those ages 10-24 have risen fairly steadily for more than a decade, with a particularly sharp spike after the pandemic. But 2022 saw an 18 percent drop in the suicide rate for young adolescents (2.3 per 100,000) and a 9 percent drop in the suicide rate for older teens and young adults (13.9 per 100,000) compared with 2021. (Suicide rates for younger children were too low to provide preliminary data.)

Anna Yaros, a research clinical psychologist who studies child mental health issues for RTI International, said she was “intrigued and encouraged by these new numbers, but cautious.”

Since the pandemic, spiking rates of depression and anxiety among children and teenagers have been named a national public health crisis. Yaros thinks ramped up school mental health programs—such as the hiring of more counselors and social workers and the implementation of social-emotional interventions in schools’ multi-tiered systems of support—may be bearing some fruit in lower suicide rates.

But she noted the suicide data have not yet been finalized and warned that there aren’t yet signs of decline in measures of broader depression and anxiety issues.

“Teachers and school counselors are encountering both more students with immediate mental health-care needs and students with worse trauma exposure and fewer coping skills than in previous years,” Yaros said. “Moreover, they continue to encounter large shortages in community mental health providers for students in mental health crisis and students needing mental health treatment.”

For example, one Texas study published earlier this year found that more than 9 in 10 children and teenagers receiving treatment for depression reported having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, and nearly half had attempted suicide.

Support needed for special populations

The suicide data also show some conflicting trends for particular student groups.

For example, older adolescent and adult men continued to die from suicide three or more times as often as girls and women.

Yet since 2019, high school girls have reported significantly higher rates of seriously thinking about, planning, and attempting suicide, according to a separate study from a long-term federal survey of adolescents.

American Indian and Alaskan Native people had the highest suicide rates of any racial group, at 39.2 per 100,000 for men and 14.4 per 100,000 for women in 2022, basically flat from the prior year. Suicide rates stayed mostly unchanged by race overall, though the rate for white women ticked up from 7.1 to 7.3 per 100,000 between 2021 and 2022.

Mortality rates are based on all death records processed by the National Center for Health Statistics as of Aug. 6, 2023.

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