Youth Suicide Rate No Fluke, CMU Researcher Says

By Puko, Tim | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 3, 2008 | Go to article overview

Youth Suicide Rate No Fluke, CMU Researcher Says


Puko, Tim, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


A higher-than-expected rate of youth suicides might be part of an emerging, nationwide health crisis, according to research co- authored by a Carnegie Mellon University professor released today.

The rate of youth suicides declined for more than a decade before spiking in 2004, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although the rate dropped slightly from 2004 to 2005, the most recent years for which statistics are available, it was much higher than trends suggest it should have been, according to the research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"For 15 years you see something going down, and then all of a sudden you see a jump, and that jump stays up, that jump is a concern," said Joel B. Greenhouse, the Carnegie Mellon statistician who co-authored the study.

"Here we're talking about lives. Last year the federal government's response to the jump was, 'Let's be cautious ... this could be just a statistical fluke.' Now we have two years of data, and it's hard to argue that this is a statistical fluke."

There were about nine suicides for every 200,000 American youths in 2005, according to the study. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents and the second among college-age youths, according to Mental Health America, formerly known as the National Mental Health Association.

The research adds to a growing list of reports that worry about an international rise in youth suicides. Several researches have noted a spike happened just after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration put messages on antidepressant packaging warning the drugs might increase the risk of suicide for children and young adults.

That was a motivation for the study, said Greenhouse and Jeffrey A. Bridge, the study's principal investigator and an epidemiologist at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. …

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