Suicide attempts have spiked since 2011, including for children ages 5 to 11

Steven Loeb · June 5, 2024 · Short URL:

All age groups saw double digits annual increases in self-harm visits, with those over 65 rising 30%

While the rate of suicide deaths actually decreased during the pandemic, they once again began rising in 2021, with the suicide rate spiking in young people, particularly those aged 15 to 24. The sharpest increase came among females aged 10 to 14, who saw their suicide rate increase by 15%, while males of the same age saw their rate drop 6% in the same time frame making them the only group to see an overall decline.

Now a new report in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows just how big the spike in suicide attempts was: between 2011 and 2022, visits to the emergency department that involved self-harm growing from 0.6% in 2011 to 2.1% by 2020, while the numbers rose from 261 per 100,000 people to 871 in 2011 per 100,000 people in 2022, an 18.8% overall increase.

The report notes that every age group saw double digits annual increases, including children ages 5 to 11, but the biggest increase in self-harm visits was for adults over 65, which went up by 30% annually. 

Overall, close to half a million people lost their lives to suicide between 2011 and 2022, while suicide rates have risen by 35% since 2000.

This data was analyzed by UConn School of Medicine psychiatric epidemiologist Greg Rhee and colleagues from the Mayo Clinic, Columbia University, Yale University School of Medicine, and the Veterans Administration Connecticut Healthcare System found by using data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, a yearly sampling of hospitals across the nation by the CDC.

“Intentional self-harm is preventable. We can potentially reduce suicide or suicide-related events. There are multiple ways. A lot of individuals undergoing mental distress could be taken care of so that they don’t harm themselves,” Rhee said in a statement. 

Biden administration initiatives 

These numbers put into perspective what has been apparent even before the pandemic, that there's a national mental health crisis.

As such, the Biden administration has launched a number of initiatives to help stem the problem, including unveiling the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, a new, easier to remember number for its suicide prevention and crisis hotline, which it rolled out in in July 2022. 

After one month, the administration said there was a 45% increase in overall volume year-to-year. In that month alone, the 988 Lifeline answered 152,000 more contacts, including calls, chats and texts, than it had a year prior, and it decreased the average speed to answer from 2.5 minutes to 42 seconds.

In May 2023, the White House announced it would be spending $200 million to scale up 988, along with new resources for school-based mental health services, which included the Department of Education (ED) awarding more than $280 million in funding to bolster the pipeline of mental health professionals serving in schools.

In September, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) awarding $232.2 million in grants for suicide prevention and behavioral health care for at-risk communities, including more than $200 million in new funding for states, territories, and Tribal nations and organizations to build local capacity for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and related crisis services.

Other policies included the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), announcing a new model, called Innovation in Behavioral Health (IBH), in which it will test approaches for addressing the behavioral health, physical health, and social needs of the Medicare and Medicaid population.

The IBH Model will connect adults who have mental health conditions and/or SUD with community-based behavioral health organizations and providers, such as Community Mental Health Centers, public or private practices, opioid treatment programs, and safety net providers where individuals can receive outpatient mental health and SUD services.

In February, the White House announced $36.9 million in notices of funding opportunities for grant programs supporting behavioral health services across the U.S. and in May it announced that it would by setting aside $46.8 million to be doled out by HHS and SAMHSA to fund opportunities in the behavioral health space, includng youth mental health, the behavioral health care workforce, substance use treatment and recovery, integrated health care solutions, and training and technical assistance. 

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