Report: Middle School Suicide Rates More Than Doubled Since 2007
The annual rate skyrocketed from 0.9 suicides per 100,000 middle schoolers in 2007 to 2.1 suicides per 100,000 middle schoolers in 2014.
Recent statistics have shown a disturbing rise in suicide among middle school students in America.
From 2007 to 2014, suicide rates have doubled among children ages 10 to 14, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The annual rate skyrocketed from 0.9 suicides per 100,000 middle schoolers in 2007 to 2.1 suicides per 100,000 middle schoolers in 2014.
Suicides have now surpassed the death rate from car crashes in that age group for the first time, according to NorthJersey.com.
Experts say the factors leading to this alarming increase include academic pressure, economic uncertainty, fear of terrorism, and social media.
Maurice Elias, a psychologist at Rutgers University and director of the school’s Social-Emotional Learning Lab, says young people become overwhelmed easily because they have not yet developed the coping skills that adults have.
“Middle school is a very difficult time,” she said. “They are very sensitive to criticism. So they are particularly prone to suicidal ideation and even action. A lot of times they exaggerate the situation. If it’s a little thing, they think it’s a huge thing. If someone doesn’t like them, they think that nobody will like them forever.”
Suicide and Social Media
The most concerning factor to many researchers is social media, which has become a playground for cyber bullying among a susceptible age group.
Most recently, a “game” called the Blue Whale Challenge has been circling the internet and is thought to be the cause of several deaths across the globe.
The game has users complete daily tasks ranging from watching scary movies to self-mutilation. On the fiftieth day, the user is allegedly told to kill themselves.
One Texas family found their 15-year-old son, Isaiah Gonzalez, hanging in his bedroom. He had streamed his death on the web. The family believes he was participating in the Blue Whale Challenge, reports The Washington Post.
His father, Jorge, said his son was sending friends pictures of the completed tasks.
“They blew it off like it was a joke and if one of them would have said something, one of them would have called us, he would have been alive,” said Isaiah’s sister, Scarlett.
Additional Suicide Statistics
Middle schoolers aren’t the only age group that is seeing an increase in suicide rates.
From 1999 to 2014, suicide rates among these age groups have increased as follows:
- 53 percent increase among ages 15 to 24, averaging to 4.6 suicides per 100,000 in 2014
- 31 percent increase among ages 25 to 44, averaging to 7.2 suicides per 100,000 in 2014
- 63 percent increase among ages 45 to 64, averaging to 9.8 suicides per 100,000 in 2014
- 43 percent increase among ages 65 to 74, averaging to 5.9 suicides per 100,000 in 2014
The suicide rate among ages 75 and over has decreased by 11 percent.
What We Can Do
To halt the increase in suicide among young people, experts urge parents and teachers to educate themselves on the warning signs of suicide.
Some of those warning signs include giving away belongings, loss of appetite, increase use of drugs or alcohol, sleep loss, loss of interest in former hobbies, personality changes and feeling trapped or hopeless.
Clark Flatt, a man who lost his 16-year-old son to suicide 20 years ago, started a foundation to help educate both teachers and teens about suicide. The Jason Foundation, named after his late son, has led to the passing of the Jason Flatt Act. The act requires suicide prevention as part of teacher training and has been adopted by 19 states.
Flatt believes that addressing bullying doesn’t only help teachers and those who are targeted but also helps those who are doing the bullying.
“We’re not dealing with a bunch of little Hannibal Lecters,” he said. “That behavior can change. If not, they grow up with problems when dealing with the workplace where bullying isn’t tolerated.”
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