Suicide is the third leading cause of death during adolescence and the second leading cause in young adults. It is preceded in frequency only by accidental deaths and homicide. Recent statistics indicate that the number of adolescent suicides has increased dramatically in the past decade, resulting in more than 5,000 deaths annually for youths between 15 and 24 years of age. For adolescents 15 to 19 years of age, suicide rates have actually tripled in the years between 1960 to 1980.1 Among children and younger teenagers between ages 5 and 14 years, suicides increased from 205 deaths in 1983 to 232 in 1984.2 As distressing as these data are, they may represent underreporting. Furthermore, many experts believe that numerous "accidental" deaths are actually suicides.3
Suicide affects young people from all races and socioeconomic groups. For every suicide completed, between 50 and 200 are attempted. Adolescent boys succeed in killing themselves more often than girls, although adolescent girls make more nonfatal attempts. This difference appears to be related, in part, to the methods favored by each sex. Boys are more likely to complete suicide because they use more lethal methods, such as firearms or hanging. These methods leave little chance for rescue. In contrast, adolescent girls more commonly attempt suicide by ingesting pills. Recently, however, there has been a trend toward the use of more lethal methods among girls.
"Cluster suicide" has also emerged in recent years. This phenomenon refers to the occurrence of multiple suicides during a short perioed of time in the same geographic location.4
- Copyright © 1988 by the American Academy of Pediatrics