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Suicide rates for teen girls have doubled and experts aren't sure why

The overall suicide rate in the United States has been on an upward trend since 2000.
suicide
Suicide rates overall have increased but rates have doubled for teen girls. Photo: iStock

Suicide rates for teen girls in the United States have doubled, according to a report, which is part of a troubling trend as suicides overall continue to increase.

In 2015, the last year recorded in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, suicides for adolescents ages 15 to 19 hit the highest number since 1975.

Between 2007 and 2015, the rate more than doubled for girls with 5.1 suicides per every 100,000 people. Suicides among boys increased by 31 percent —from 10.8 to 14.2 per 100,000 people — but rates for boys have always been higher than for teen girls. In 2015, the rate for teenage boys is almost triple the rate for girls.

This is a trend the CDC has been watching for a while, Thomas Simon, the CDC's associate director for science in the division of violence prevention, told Vice’s Tonic.

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“The data don’t allow us to determine why,” Simon told NBC in 2015. “Is it social media? Is it conventional media? Is it access to other methods?”

Maureen Underwood, clinical director for the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, told Fox News in a 2016 interview, "It’s the irrational thinking in suicide that makes it so complex for us to understand."

"Many kids do not understand that once they’re dead, they’re dead forever. They don’t understand the finality of it," Underwood added. "As adults, we think with our frontal lobe. They [teens] think from the amygdala – the part of the brain responsible for our feelings."

While the CDC doesn’t want to give a “how-to” on suicide to teens, it wants parents and teachers to be more aware of the risks.

"It's important to let readers know that multiple factors contribute to risk for suicide. It's not the result of any one thing — it's the result of many things," Simon explained to Vice.

Factors like pressure at work or school, substance abuse, relationship problems or legal issues might also contribute to the increase in suicides. Economic turmoil also lends to a pattern of an increase in suicides, the CDC researchers found.

While teens might not be directly affected by a tough economy, it can create instability at home and teens pick up the apprehension from their parents or guardians.

Adults also need to learn how to recognize depression in teens, especially for teens already at risk, and get more comfortable talking to teens about mental health.

Social media compounds the effect and not just because of cyberbullying. Social media use causes us to compare our lives to that of others and it might contribute to teens not getting enough sleep, both of which can exacerbate depression and anxiety. Experts suggest monitoring your teen’s technology use and put a limit on their access to social media.

But why are more girls killing themselves?

"I would imagine that girls are not treating this lightly — the ones who are in that state of anguish are not going to attempt some cries for help,” Suniya Luthar, a psychology professor at Arizona State University, told Vice. “They'll move right along. It's going to work the first time.”

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, help is available. Call 1-800-273-8255 to speak with someone now or text START to 741741 to message with the Crisis Text Line.

 
 
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