Suicide attempts on the rise in children

The increasing number of children being transported to hospitals for suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts is considered alarming, but the Canadian data are too incomplete to measure the extent of the problem, a Montreal researcher found.

Dr. Brett Burstein, a pediatric emergency physician, co-authored a study published this week that portrays the phenomenon in the United States. According to the findings, the number of children hospitalized for thinking or attempting to kill themselves doubled from 2007 to 2015, from 580,000 to 1.12 million.

The proportion of emergency visits for suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts also increased during this period, ranging from 2.17% to 3.5%.

The figures come from public data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States and were analyzed by Dr. Burstein and two other colleagues at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, Holly Agostino and Brian Greenfield.

Such data is not available in Canada, but a similar pattern would emerge, according to Dr. Burstein.

Only at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, emergency room visits for suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts have increased 55% since 2015 – they account for about 2% of all visits.

“Unfortunately, it’s clear that we have the same experience here in the emergency department,” said Dr. Burstein, who is also a research associate at the Child Health and Human Development Program at the University Center of Medicine. McGill health.

According to him, it is reasonable to speak of a “pediatric mental health crisis”.

More and more young

Dr. Burstein believes that one of the most disturbing findings of the US study is that 43% of children in emergency rooms were under 12 years of age.

“They were suicidal among children between the ages of 5 and 11 years old. It’s definitely something new, “he said.

These figures are particularly worrying since a first suicide attempt is the “most powerful indicator of a lifetime risk of suicide,” he said.

According to him, the study published in JAMA Pediatrics demonstrates the need to better train staff working in emergencies to ensure that children are cared for quickly – this is an opportunity to identify people at risk, he said.

Dr. Burstein would also like Canada to collect data to better deal with the problem.

An “endemic” problem

Fardous Hosseiny, National Director of Research and Public Policy at the Canadian Mental Health Association, agrees that Canada is short of data.

This would allow the authorities to channel funding to the right place to deal with the “epidemic” problem of suicidal thoughts among young Canadians, he said.

“It’s really a transition period for children, both neurobiologically and socially,” he said. They must navigate different social contexts and peer groups while discovering who they are and balancing greater responsibilities and greater autonomy. ”

According to him, to respond to the problem, governments will need to invest more in mental health to prevent people from waiting months before being treated.

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