Study finds more teens thinking about, attempting suicide

May 16, 2018, 6:47 PM | Updated: 9:09 pm

PLEASANT GROVE, Utah – A new study released by Vanderbilt University found more kids are either thinking about or attempting suicide – nearly twice as much as a decade ago. The research published in Pediatrics also showed school stress may play a role.

A teen counselor in Utah County talked with KSL about the role social media plays in this troubling trend.

“The clients I have seen have become more intense in the things that they’re thinking of doing,” said Jessica Miller, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at The Green House Center for Growth and Learning in Pleasant Grove.

Miller specializes in counseling teens who have struggled mentally and thought about hurting themselves. She said she was drawn into teen therapy shortly after she started working at the center.

“I found very quickly that I was able to connect with them in ways that they reported, and told me, that other counselors weren’t,” she said.

Miller was not surprised by the surge in hospitalizations of children either thinking about suicide, or attempting suicide.

“It makes me heartsick, immediately,” she said. “I feel for all these teens because to get all the way to feeling suicidal, you have to be in so much pain.”

Researchers from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee analyzed a database of hospital visits from 2008 to 2015 and discovered a doubling in the number of kids thinking about hurting themselves, or trying to hurt themselves.

They found half of the hospital encounters involved teens ages 15 to 17, and 37 percent were ages 12 to 14. Nearly 13 percent were ages 5 to 11 years old. Girls made up nearly two-thirds of the cases.

Researchers also discovered a spike during the school year.

Read the study summary

Miller said she sees the reality of those statistics every day.

“There’s a lot of pressure to get good grades, to do well,” the counselor said. “There’s also just a lot more social interaction happening during the school year that’s more difficult for them to manage.”

Teens in school see their friends more often, compare themselves to their friends, and maybe feeling less than their peers. That intensifies their anxiety level.

“It’s all just his perfect storm of difficult stuff,” she said.

The also study cited the prevalence of social media as a potential cause. Miller said she agrees.

“Really, these kids are carrying around anxiety with them,” she said referring to smart phones. “I can get on Instagram and see what my ex-boyfriend is doing right at that moment. That’s a heartbreak in that second, because I see he’s with another girl which I never would have known 5, 10,15 years ago.”

Smart phones that deliver instant gratification – or rejection – that can influence a child’s mood and thoughts right away.

“Social media being ingrained in all of the aspects of life makes it really difficult for them to have any healthy functioning because it is a constant reminder that you’re not good enough,” she said.

Parents trying to distinguish between normal teen anxiety and serious trouble should seek professional help if the child ever mentions wanting to die, or wanting to hurt themselves.

“They are jumping to it a lot quicker. So, if your kid expresses any of that ideation, you need to get help because they’re going to get stuck in that, more and more, rather than figuring it out on their own.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

generic emergency lights...
Eliza Pace

Two people injured after being hit by car

Two people were hit by a car and injured at West Haven at 21st and 1100 West.
1 day ago
FILE - Lori Vallow Daybell glances at the camera during her hearing in Rexburg, Idaho., March 6, 20...
Lauren Steinbrecher

Idaho judge deciding if JJ Vallow’s grandparents can sit in on Lori Vallow Daybell trial

A judge will decide if family members who plan on testifying can sit in the courtroom, namely Joshua "JJ" Vallow's grandparents Kay and Larry Woodcock.
1 day ago
Follow @KSL5TVLike us on Facebook...
Mike Anderson

Aggie chocolate factory first in US to make rare ‘albino’ chocolate bars

Utah State University is working on some important research: producing albino chocolate. 
1 day ago
Retired Army Major General Jefferson Burton speaks at the Utah Capitol on Wednesday, March 29, 2023...
Katija Stjepovic

Utah’s Vietnam veterans honored 50 years after end of war

Veterans from around Utah were honored at the Utah Capitol as the U.S. marks the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.
1 day ago
With so many Utah communities concerned about potential flooding this spring, because of the heavy ...
Alex Cabrero

Utah company offers free cyclone sand to help prepare for flooding

With so many Utah communities concerned about potential flooding this spring, Geneva Rock has decided to give sandbags to Utah cities and counties for free.
1 day ago
Cities and counties across Utah are taking advantage of the extra water this winter to replenish aq...
Ladd Egan

Water districts using extra water to recharge aquifers

Cities and counties across Utah are taking advantage of the extra water this winter to replenish aquifers.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Stack of old laptops with dark background...
PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Close up of an offset printing machine during production...
Les Olson IT

Top 7 Reasons to Add a Production Printer to Your Business

Learn about the different digital production printers and how they can help your company save time and money.
vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
Study finds more teens thinking about, attempting suicide