Tuesday, November 15, 2022

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Report: youth ER visits linked to suicidal ideation rising

The number of Illinois teens who went to emergency rooms with suicidal thoughts or ideas has risen in recent years, according to a new study published Monday by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

Emergency department visits for suicidal ideation for those between the ages of 5 to 19 rose 59 percent from 2016 to 2021, while hospitalizations rose by 57 percent.

“A lot of people have talked about mental health problems in youth during the pandemic, but it was happening before the pandemic,” said Dr. Audrey Brewer, one of the study’s authors and a pediatrician at Lurie Children’s. “This has been an issue for so long, and it’s getting worse.”

The study looked at data from 205 Illinois hospitals on visits related to suicide ideation, but not necessarily suicide attempts. The data does not specify whether an individual made multiple hospital visits.

Youth with severe mental illness, substance use, anxiety or depression were more likely to be hospitalized.

The study theorizes that the rise in suicidal ideation — even before the COVID-19 pandemic — could be a combination of school-related stress, social isolation, heavy social media exposure, growing hopelessness about climate change, political discord and gun violence, and family adversity.