The number of U.S. children and adolescents admitted to hospitals for attempts or thoughts of suicide has surged in the U.S. over the past decade.
Researchers looking at 31 hospitals around the country found 35,000 suicide-related admissions of children between 2008 and 2011. When they looked at admissions for thoughts or attempts at suicide between 2012 and 2015, they found that number had more than doubled to 80,000 admissions.
Nearly two-thirds of those were girls.
The researchers from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee noted that suicide thoughts and attempts occurred more in fall and spring, and dropped in the summer, suggesting more pressure during the school year.
While suicide thoughts and attempts increased among all ages between the years of 5 and 15, the greatest increases were seen in older teens. That group — 15 to 17 years old — accounted for half of all hospital visits and/or admissions in the study. Nearly 40 percent of admissions involved children 12 to 15.
Suicide thoughts and attempts were seen in children as young as age 5.
The study, published in the medical journal Pediatrics, came at a time when the frequency of school shootings and reports of cyberbullying in American schools are major topics in the national discussion.
"The growing impact of mental health issues in pediatrics on hospitals and clinics can no longer be ignored," said Dr. Greg Plemmons, lead author of the study and associate professor of clinical pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, "particularly in a time when mental health resources for children appear to be static, and woefully scarce across the U.S."
Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among adolescents in the United States, behind accidents and homicides, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.