Suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents aged 10–19 in the U.S. In 2017, approximately 1 in 5 deaths in youth were attributed to suicide. Risk factors for youth suicide include a previous suicide attempt, psychiatric disorders (such as major depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety, and personality disorder traits), substance use, lack of social support, and availability of lethal means. Many of the common risk factors for suicide attempts and ideation can be exacerbated by adverse childhood events, family discord, fights with friends, poverty, and legal trouble. Rates of youth death by suicide in the US have been increasing.
Youth suicide death rates highest for younger Blacks, and older Whites
- In 2015–17, suicide mortality rates were three times higher among 15–19 year-olds than 10–14 year-olds.
- Youth suicide rates among younger youth (age 10–14) were twice as high among Black youth; however, the inverse was true for older youth (age 15–19), with youth suicide rates more than twice as high among older White youth
Males and youth aged 15–19 have the highest suicide counts
- Females represented 75% of suicides for the age group 10–14.
- In contrast, males made up more than 75% of suicides for ages 15–19.
- In total, males aged 15–19 represented over 50% of Philadelphia’s youth suicide deaths from 2015 to 2017.
- Black youths accounted for 75% of deaths by suicide for the 10–14 years old age group, but white youths made up almost 50% of deaths by suicide for the 15–19 years old age group.
Female youths have more suicide-related emergency department visits than male youths
- Females have higher counts of suicide-related emergency department (ED) visits than males. In 2018, females accounted for approximately two-thirds of suicide-related ED visits.
- Because males are more likely to utilize more lethal means (e.g. firearms) to attempt suicide and females are more likely to use less lethal means (e.g. prescription medication), female youths have a greater chance of going to a hospital for treatment after a suicide attempt.
What can be done
The City of Philadelphia is:
- Operating a 24/7 call center (215–686–4420) to support individuals, or loved ones, experiencing a behavioral health crisis.
- Running 24/7 Crisis Response Centers around the city to evaluate and assist individuals experiencing mental health or addiction-related crises.
- Offering free Mental Health First Aid courses to teach how to notice and react to signs that indicate a behavioral health crisis. A certification that focuses specifically on youth mental health is an offering.
- Leading a citywide Suicide Prevention Task Force to advocate for system improvements around suicide prevention.
- Partnering with CeaseFirePA in support of common-sense firearm reforms that will limit access to guns for individuals experiencing behavioral health crises.
- Supporting family members and friends who have lost loved ones to suicide through Survivors of Suicide Loss support groups.