Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting

Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting

May 04, 2017
2 min read

Adolescent suicidality, self-harm doubles in US hospitals

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From 2008 to 2015, suicidality and serious self-harm nearly doubled among children aged 15 to 17 years presenting to a hospital, according to data presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting.

“Anecdotally, my colleagues and I had noticed over the last several years that an increasing number of our hospital beds were being occupied by children and teenagers with suicidal ideation and thoughts or had actually attempted suicide,” Gregory Plemmons, MD, of Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University, told Healio/Psychiatry. “We wanted to explore if other children's hospitals were experiencing the same trend, so we decided to look at data from a large hospital database.”

Gregory Plemmons

To assess trends in suicidality and serious self-harm among children and adolescents presenting to U.S. children’s hospitals, researchers analyzed administrative data from 32 hospitals for all ED and inpatient encounters from 2008 through 2015 among children aged 5 to 17 years discharged with a suicidality or serious self-harm diagnosis.

Overall, there were 118,363 encounters for suicidality or self-harm. Of these, 50.4% were among participants aged 15 to 17 years; 36.9% were among those aged 12 to 14 years; and 12.7% were among those aged 5 to 11 years.

Annual percentage of all suicidality and self-harm encounters increased from 0.67% in 2008 to 1.79% in 2015.

Researchers noted significant increases among all age groups, particularly among participants aged 15 to 17 years, who had an average annual increase of 0.27 percentage points.

Suicidality and self-harm encounters varied by season, with the lowest percentage of encounters in the summer and the highest in the spring and fall.

“What we found is fairly similar to what is being reported by many other sources such as the CDC — namely, that suicide rates and thoughts have been increasing for some time among all age groups, but particularly seem to be occurring in younger ages and more adolescent females as well,” Plemmons said. “The most interesting trend we noted in our survey is that summer months appear to be protective — ie, June, July, and August appear to be the months in which the fewest numbers of children and teenagers present to a hospital or emergency room with suicidal behaviors. Not surprisingly, that is also traditionally a time when most academic school years break for vacation. How schools may be contributing to the interplay of factors which can increase depression and suicidal thoughts is further area for exploration, as well as a possible area to explore for future interventions and prevention.” – by Amanda Oldt


Plemmons G, et al. Trends in suicidality and serious self-harm for children 5-17 years at 32 U.S. children’s hospitals, 2008-2015. Presented at: The Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting; May 6-9, 2017; San Francisco.

Disclosure: was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.