DataBank Indicator

Suicidal Teens

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The proportion of high school students who report they have thought seriously about attempting suicide continued to rise in 2015 (to 18 percent), after having fallen substantially since the early 1990s (from 29 percent in 1991 to 14 percent in 2009).

Importance

Suicide was the second leading cause of death among teenagers ages 15-19 in 2014.[1] Considering or attempting suicide is often indicative of serious mental health problems, and may signal other traumatic life events such as physical or sexual abuse. Youth are much more likely to think about and attempt suicide if they are depressed.[2] Other risk factors for suicide include co-occurring substance or alcohol abuse and mental disorders; a family history of suicide; physical illness; relational, social, work, or financial loss; and easy access to lethal methods, especially guns.[3] Finally, youth who have experienced stressful life events, who have poor levels of communication with their parents, and who have been exposed to the suicidal behaviors of others are more likely to commit suicide.[4]

Trends

The percentage of high school students who reported that they had thought seriously about committing suicide in the last year declined from 29 percent in 1991 to 14 percent in 2009. However, the percentage has increased since, reaching 18 percent in 2015. The proportion of students who reported having attempted suicide remained relatively constant in the 1990s and early 2000s (between seven and nine percent), but the percentage declined between 2005 and 2009, from eight to six percent. This trend reversed in 2011, increasing to eight percent, and in 2015 increased again to nine percent.  A much smaller proportion, two to three percent of high school students, reported requiring medical attention as a result of a suicide attempt, and this proportion remained constant between 1991 and 2009. However, the proportion increased significantly between 2009 and 2013, from 1.9 to 2.8 percent. (Figure 1)

Differences by Gender

Females are much more likely than males to report seriously considering suicide (23 and 12 percent, respectively, in 2015), attempting suicide (twelve and six percent, respectively), and requiring medical attention (four and two percent, respectively). (Figure 2) However, males are far more likely to succeed in committing suicide.[5]

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin[6]

In 2015, Hispanic females were more likely to seriously consider suicide than their white or black peers (26, versus 23 and 19 percent, respectively), more likely to report attempting suicide (15, versus 10 percent, each), and more likely to require medical attention for a suicide attempt (5, versus 3 and 4 percent, respectively). (Figure 3) Among males, whites were less likely than blacks and Hispanics to attempt suicide (4, versus 7 and 8 percent, respectively) and less likely to require medical attention for a suicide attempt (1, versus 4 and 3 percent, respectively). (Appendices 2 and 3)

Differences by Grade

In 2015, twelfth-grade girls were less likely than ninth-grade girls to seriously consider or attempt suicide (19 versus 27 percent). Additionally, ninth-grade girls were more than twice as likely as their twelfth-grade counterparts to attempt suicide (15 versus 7 percent), and to require medical treatment as a result of suicide attempts (5 versus 2 percent). Refer to (Figure 4)

.

State and Local Estimates

2015 estimates of suicidal thoughts and attempts among high school students (Grades 9-12) are available for select states and cities from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS)  (Tables 26 and 28).

International Estimates

None available.

National Goals

The Healthy People 2020 program has set a goal to reduce the proportion of adolescents who report they required medical
attention for an attempted suicide, from 1.9 percent in 2009 to 1.7 percent in 2020.  Additional information available here. (Goal MHMD-2)

What Works to Make Progress on This Indicator

See the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s list of evidence-based practices. Also, see Child Trends’ review, What Works to Prevent or Reduce Internalizing Problems or Social-Emotional Difficulties in Adolescents: Lessons From Experimental Evaluations of Social Interventions.

Also, see Child Trends’ LINKS database (“Lifecourse Interventions to Nurture Kids Successfully”), for reviews of many rigorously evaluated programs, including the following which have been shown to be effective at reducing suicide risk behaviors:

Related Indicators

Definition

Students were asked the following questions:

“During the past 12 months, did you ever seriously consider attempting suicide?”

“During the past 12 months, how many times did you actually attempt suicide?”

“If you attempted suicide during the past 12 months, did any attempt result in an injury, poisoning, or overdose that had to be treated by a doctor or nurse?”

Students from Oregon, Washington, and Minnesota were not included in the survey in any year.  Students from California were included in the survey only in 2015.   Additionally, students from, Indiana and Pennsylvania were not included in the 2013 survey, and students from Utah, Kansas, Texas, New Jersey, Iowa, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Ohio and Georgia were not included in the 2015 survey.  Students from Colorado, and Iowa were not included in the 2013 or 2015 surveys.

Data Source

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016). 1991-2015 High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data. Accessed on 11/11/2016.  Available at  http://nccd.cdc.gov/youthonline/.

Raw Data Source

Youth Risk Behavior Survey

http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dash/yrbs/index.htm

1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013 2015
All Students 29.0 24.1 24.1 20.5 19.3 19.0 16.9 16.9 14.5 13.8 15.8 17 17.7
Race/Ethnicity3
Non-Hispanic White 29.9 24.2 24.9 19.5 17.6 19.7 16.5 16.9 14.0 13.1 15.5 16.2 17.2
Non-Hispanic Black 22.2 19.9 20.0 16.4 15.3 13.3 12.5 12.2 13.2 13.0 13.2 14.5 14.5
Hispanic 26.8 26.0 25.0 23.1 19.9 19.4 18.1 17.9 15.9 15.4 16.7 18.9 18.8
Grade
9 29.1 24.2 25.7 22.2 18.1 20.8 16.9 17.9 14.8 14.8 17.1 17.2 18.2
10 29.5 24.7 24.5 21.5 21.9 19.0 18.3 17.3 15.6 13.4 16.5 17.3 18.3
11 31.6 24.6 26.3 21.0 18.3 18.9 16.4 16.8 13.5 14.5 15.5 18.2 17.7
12 25.8 22.7 20.0 17.9 18.4 16.4 15.5 14.8 13.5 12.1 13.6 14.9 16.3
Male 20.8 18.8 18.3 15.1 13.7 14.2 12.8 12.0 10.3 10.5 12.5 11.6 12.2
Race/Ethnicity3
Non-Hispanic White 21.7 19.1 19.1 14.4 12.5 14.9 12.0 12.4 10.2 10.5 12.8 11.4 11.5
Non-Hispanic Black 13.3 15.4 16.7 10.6 11.7 9.2 10.3 7.0 8.5 7.8 9.0 10.2 11.0
Hispanic 18.0 17.9 15.7 17.1 13.6 12.2 12.9 11.9 10.7 10.7 12.6 11.5 12.4
Grade
9 17.6 17.7 18.2 16.1 11.9 14.7 11.9 12.2 10.8 10.0 12.9 9.9 10.7
10 19.5 18.0 16.7 14.5 13.7 13.8 13.2 11.9 9.3 10.0 11.4 11.3 10.8
11 25.3 20.6 21.7 16.6 13.7 14.1 12.9 11.9 10.7 11.4 14.3 14.0 13.3
12 20.7 18.3 16.3 13.5 15.6 13.7 13.2 11.6 10.2 10.5 11.5 11.0 14.0
1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013 2015
Female 37.2 29.6 30.4 27.1 24.9 23.6 21.3 21.8 18.7 17.4 19.3 22.3 23.4
Race/Ethnicity3
Non-Hispanic White 38.6 29.7 31.6 26.1 23.2 24.2 21.2 21.5 17.8 16.1 18.4 21.1 22.8
Non-Hispanic Black 29.4 24.5 22.2 22.0 18.8 17.2 14.7 17.1 18.0 18.1 17.4 18.6 18.7
Hispanic 34.6 34.1 34.1 30.3 26.1 26.5 23.4 24.2 21.1 20.2 21.0 26.0 25.6
Grade
9 40.3 30.9 34.4 28.9 24.4 26.2 22.2 23.9 19.0 20.3 21.5 24.6 26.5
10 39.7 31.6 32.8 30.0 30.1 24.1 23.8 23.0 22.0 17.2 22.3 23.4 25.7
11 38.4 28.9 31.1 26.2 23.0 23.6 20.0 21.6 16.3 17.8 16.7 22.3 22.1
12 30.7 27.3 23.9 23.6 21.2 18.9 18.0 18.0 16.7 13.6 15.8 18.7 18.6
1Estimates do not include youth who dropped out of school and therefore may not reflect total national values. Students from Oregon, Washington, and Minnesota were not included in the survey in any year. California students were included in the survey only in 2015. Additionally, students in, Indiana and Pennsylvania were not included in the 2013 survey, and students in Utah, Kansas, Texas, New Jersey, Iowa, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Ohio and Georgia were not included in the 2015 survey. Students in Colorado, and Iowa were not included in the 2013 or 2015 surveys. Various other states were not included in previous survey years.

2During the last twelve months.

3Race/ethnicity estimates from 1999 and later are not directly comparable to earlier years due to federal changes in race definitions. In surveys conducted in 1999 and later, respondents were allowed to select more than one race when selecting their racial category. Estimates presented only include respondents who selected one category when choosing their race.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016). 1991-2015 High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data. Accessed on 8/4/2014. Available at http://nccd.cdc.gov/youthonline/.

 

 

Appendix 2 – Percentage of High School Students1 Who Report They Attempted Suicide2: Selected Years, 1991-2015

1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013 2015
All Students 7.3 8.6 8.7 7.7 8.3 8.8 8.5 8.4 6.9 6.3 7.8 8.0 8.6
Race/Ethnicity3
Non-Hispanic White 6.7 7.7 7.6 6.3 6.7 7.9 6.9 7.3 5.6 5.0 6.2 6.3 6.8
Non-Hispanic Black 6.6 8.4 9.5 7.3 7.3 8.8 8.4 7.6 7.7 7.9 8.3 8.8 8.9
Hispanic 7.9 13.6 13.4 10.7 12.8 12.1 10.6 11.3 10.2 8.1 10.2 11.3 11.3
Grade
9 9.1 10.1 10.6 10.5 10.0 11.0 10.1 10.4 7.9 7.3 9.3 9.3 9.9
10 7.6 9.4 10.1 8.5 10.6 9.5 9.1 9.1 8.0 6.9 8.2 8.6 9.4
11 6.3 8.3 8.5 7.6 6.1 8.3 7.3 7.8 5.8 6.3 6.6 7.5 8.0
12 5.8 6.7 5.6 4.8 5.6 5.5 6.1 5.4 5.4 4.2 6.3 6.2 6.2
Male 3.9 5.0 5.6 4.5 5.7 6.2 5.4 6.0 4.6 4.6 5.8 5.4 5.5
Race/Ethnicity3
Non-Hispanic White 3.3 4.4 5.2 3.2 4.5 5.3 3.7 5.2 3.4 3.8 4.6 4.2 3.7
Non-Hispanic Black 3.2 5.4 7.0 5.6 7.1 7.5 7.7 5.2 5.5 5.4 7.7 6.8 7.2
Hispanic 3.6 7.4 5.8 7.2 6.6 8.0 6.1 7.8 6.3 5.1 6.9 6.9 7.6
Grade
9 4.4 5.8 6.8 6.3 6.1 8.2 5.8 6.8 5.3 4.5 6.8 4.8 5.1
10 3.3 5.9 5.4 3.8 6.2 6.7 5.5 7.6 4.9 5.2 5.1 5.3 5.7
11 4.1 3.4 5.7 4.4 4.8 4.9 4.6 4.5 3.7 4.7 5.9 6.2 5.8
12 3.8 4.5 4.7 3.7 5.4 4.4 5.2 4.3 4.2 3.8 5 5.1 5.2
1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013 2015
Female 10.7 12.5 11.9 11.6 10.9 11.2 11.5 10.8 9.3 8.1 9.8 10.6 11.6
Race/Ethnicity3
Non-Hispanic White 10.4 11.3 10.4 10.3 9.0 10.3 10.3 9.3 7.7 6.5 7.9 8.5 9.8
Non-Hispanic Black 9.4 11.2 10.8 9.0 7.5 9.8 9.0 9.8 9.9 10.4 8.8 10.7 10.2
Hispanic 11.6 19.7 21.0 14.9 18.9 15.9 15.0 14.9 14.0 11.1 13.5 15.6 15.1
Grade
9 13.8 14.4 14.9 15.1 14.0 13.2 14.7 14.1 10.5 10.3 11.8 13.8 15.1
10 12.2 13.1 15.1 14.3 14.8 12.2 12.7 10.8 11.2 8.8 11.6 12.0 13.0
11 8.7 13.6 11.4 11.3 7.5 11.5 10.0 11.0 7.8 7.8 7.4 8.8 10.2
12 7.8 9.1 6.6 6.2 5.8 6.5 6.9 6.5 6.5 4.6 7.7 7.2 7.2
1Estimates do not include youth who dropped out of school and therefore may not reflect total national values. Students from Oregon, Washington, and Minnesota were not included in the survey in any year. California students were included in the survey only in 2015. Additionally, students in Indiana and Pennsylvania were not included in the 2013 survey, and students in Utah, Kansas, Texas, New Jersey, Iowa, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Ohio and Georgia were not included in the 2015 survey. Students in Colorado, and Iowa were not included in the 2013 or 2015 surveys. Various other states were not included in previous survey years.

2During the last twelve months.

3Race/ethnicity estimates from 1999 and later are not directly comparable to earlier years due to federal changes in race definitions. In surveys conducted in 1999 and later, respondents were allowed to select more than one race when selecting their racial category. Estimates presented only include respondents who selected one category when choosing their race.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016). 1991-2016 High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data. Accessed on 11/11/2016. Available at http://nccd.cdc.gov/youthonline/.

 

Appendix 3 -Percentage of High School Students1 Who Report They Attempted Suicide2: Selected Years, 1991-2015

1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013 2015
All Students 1.7 2.7 2.8 2.6 2.6 2.6 2.9 2.3 2.0 1.9 2.4 2.7 2.8
Race/Ethnicity3
Non-Hispanic White 1.6 2.4 2.4 2.0 1.9 2.3 1.7 2.1 1.5 1.6 1.9 2.0 2.1
Non-Hispanic Black 1.8 3.0 3.2 2.4 2.9 3.4 3.7 2.0 2.3 2.5 2.4 2.7 3.8
Hispanic 1.7 3.7 4.8 2.8 3.0 3.4 5.0 3.2 2.9 2.2 3.2 4.1 3.7
Grade
9 1.9 2.8 4.1 4.1 3.2 3.2 3.5 3.0 2.3 2.1 2.8 3.0 3.2
10 1.6 3.2 3.1 2.4 2.9 3.0 2.6 2.3 2.0 2.2 2.6 2.6 3.1
11 1.8 2.4 2.5 2.7 2.5 2.2 2.4 2.2 1.6 2.1 1.9 2.6 2.6
12 1.7 2.2 1.7 1.4 1.5 1.6 2.1 1.6 1.7 1.2 2.0 2.4 1.9
Male 1.0 1.6 2.2 2.0 2.1 2.1 2.4 1.8 1.5 1.9 1.9 1.8 1.9
Race/Ethnicity3
Non-Hispanic White 0.9 1.4 2.1 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.1 1.5 0.9 1.2 1.5 1.1 0.9
Non-Hispanic Black 0.4 2.0 2.8 1.8 3.4 3.6 5.2 1.4 2.5 2.5 2.4 2.2 4.0
Hispanic 0.5 2.0 2.9 2.1 1.4 2.5 4.2 2.8 1.8 1.8 2.2 2.8 2.9
Grade
9 1.0 2.1 2.3 3.2 2.6 2.6 3.1 2.1 1.9 1.4 2.0 1.6 1.9
10 0.5 1.3 2.4 1.4 1.8 2.5 2.1 2.2 1.0 2.0 1.8 1.6 2.2
11 1.5 1.1 2.0 2.6 2.1 1.6 2.0 1.4 1.4 1.7 1.9 2.2 2.0
12 0.9 1.5 2.2 1.0 1.7 1.5 1.8 1.0 1.5 1.4 1.8 1.7 1.4
1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013 2015
Female 2.5 3.8 3.4 3.3 3.1 3.1 3.2 2.9 2.4 1.6 2.9 3.6 3.7
Race/Ethnicity3
Non-Hispanic White 2.3 3.6 2.9 2.6 2.3 2.9 2.4 2.7 2.1 2.0 2.2 2.8 3.4
Non-Hispanic Black 2.9 4.0 3.6 3.0 2.4 3.1 2.2 2.6 2.1 2.5 2.4 3.2 3.6
Hispanic 2.7 5.5 6.6 3.8 4.6 4.2 5.7 3.7 3.9 2.7 4.1 5.4 4.5
Grade
9 2.8 3.5 6.3 5.0 3.8 3.8 3.9 4.0 2.6 2.8 3.7 4.5 4.7
10 2.6 5.1 3.8 3.7 4.0 3.6 3.2 2.4 3.1 2.3 3.4 3.7 3.9
11 2.1 3.9 2.9 2.8 2.8 2.8 2.9 2.9 1.7 2.6 2.0 2.9 3.4
12 2.4 2.9 1.3 2.0 1.3 1.7 2.2 2.2 1.8 1.0 2.3 3.0 2.3
1Estimates do not include youth who dropped out of school and therefore may not reflect total national values. Students from Oregon, Washington, and Minnesota were not included in the survey in any year. Students in California were included in the survey only in 2015. Additionally, students in Indiana and Pennsylvania were not included in the 2013 survey, and students in Utah, Kansas, Texas, New Jersey, Iowa, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Ohio and Georgia were not included in the 2015 survey. Students in Colorado, and Iowa were not included in the 2013 or 2015 surveys. Various other states were not included in previous survey years.

2During the last twelve months.

3Race/ethnicity estimates from 1999 and later are not directly comparable to earlier years due to federal changes in race definitions. In surveys conducted in 1999 and later, respondents were allowed to select more than one race when selecting their racial category. Estimates presented only include respondents who selected one category when choosing their race.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016). 1991-2015 High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data. Accessed on 11/11/2016. Available at http://nccd.cdc.gov/youthonline/.

Endnotes


[1]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Online]. (2014). National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (producer). Available from: www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/fatal.html

[2]U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Mental
health: A report of the Surgeon General.
Available at: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/chapter3/sec5.html

[3]Shaffer, D., & Craft, L., (1999). Methods of
adolescent suicide prevention. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 60(Suppl. 2), 70-74.

[4]National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center. Teen
Suicide
.http://www.counseling.org/Resources/Library/Selected%20Topics/Suicide/suicide_fact_sheet.pdf

[5]Child Trends Databank. (2014) Teen Homicide, Suicide, and Firearm Deaths. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=teen-homicide-suicide-and-firearm-deaths. Original data from the National Vital Statistics System.

[6]Hispanics may be any race. Estimates for whites and blacks in this report do not include Hispanics.

 

Suggested Citation:

Child Trends Databank. (2016). Suicidal teens. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=suicidal-teens

 

Last updated: December 2016 

 

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