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Why Are So Many Kids Attempting Suicide?

State of the Union: The number of suicidal children and young adults admitted to emergency rooms has skyrocketed in the past decade.

(Mr.Thanathip Phatraiwat/Shutterstock)

The American Medical Association found that even as the total number of pediatric emergency room visits declined, mental-health-related visits among children, teenagers, and young adults surged between 2011 and 2020, from 4.8 million to 7.5 million.

In that span, psychiatric patients' share of all pediatric and young-adult E.R. visits nearly doubled, from 7.7 to 13.1 percent. While visits related to psychosis, depression, drug and alcohol abuse increased, the New York Times reported that the share of admissions related to suicide nearly quadrupled, from 0.9 to 4.2 percent of all pediatric E.R. visits. This finding dovetails with a study we covered two years ago, which found the number of adolescent girls admitted to emergency rooms following suicide attempts rose nearly 51 percent between 2019 and 2021.


Technology and social media, which have the effect of isolating people and coarsening conversations, have almost certainly contributed to the increase. So has the erosion of religious and moral norms against suicide.

One factor that hasn't been adequately considered, especially in the context of adolescents, is LGBT activists' endorsement of suicide as a means of protest. When LGBT activists, for example, ask "non-affirming" parents whether they would "rather have a living son or a dead daughter," they suggest that suicide is a legitimate, practically necessary recourse for a child who is not "affirmed" by her parents. Vulnerable children, whether they identify as transgender or not, are prone to internalize and act on that logic, as the AMA report illustrates.


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