Estimates of Emergency Department Visits for Suicide Attempts, Thoughts Among Kids, Teens

Bottom Line: Many children with suicide attempts/suicidal thoughts present to emergency departments (EDs). An analysis of U.S. ED data from 2007 to 2015 estimates annual visits almost doubled from 580,000 to 1.12 million for suicide attempts/suicidal thoughts by children ages 5 to 18 years. As a proportion of all pediatric encounters in EDs, suicide attempts/suicidal thoughts increased from 2.17 percent in 2007 to 3.50 percent in 2015. Limitations of the study are that a cause cannot be inferred from the results and it’s possible that nonsuicidal self-harm was incorrectly coded by physicians as suicide attempts/suicidal thoughts. Study findings suggest a need to strengthen community mental health resources, increase ED physician preparedness for dealing with these cases, and develop initiatives to decrease suicide risk among children and teens.

Author: Brett Burstein, M.D.C.M., Ph.D., M.P.H., Montreal Children’s Hospital, Montreal, Canada, and coauthors