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Teen suicide attempts: rate increase?

Teen suicide attempts: Rate increase?

In the past few years, considerable attention has focused on what appears to be an increasing number of teenage suicides. A survey of 2,631 adolescents (ages 12 to 18) randomly selected from public and private schools in a large Michigan county indicates that the rate of teenage suicide attempts is also a cause for concern.

Nearly 8 percent of the anonymously questioned sample said they had attempted suicide at least once in the previous year, reports sociologist R. John Kinkel of the University of Michigan-Flint. This is a higher and more accurate rate of attempted suicide among teens than previous estimates based on public records and household surveys, according to Kinkel and his co-workers. The highest rates of reported suicide attempts occurred among youngsters living in rural areas (16 percent), those between the ages of 14 and 16 (10 percent) and females (9.9 percent). Females who reported heavy use of alcohol or marijuana were much more likely to report suicide attempts, says Kinkel; this association did not hold for males.

An anonymous self-report survey of 385 students at a high school for the academically gifted in New York City finds that 9 percent said they had made at least one suicide attempt at some time in their lives, according to psychologist Jill M. Harkavy. The students were between 14 and 18 years old. Harkavy and her colleague Gregory M. Asnis, both of Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, also observed that two-thirds of the suicide attempters reported making at least two attempts.

Self reports are not infallible, and the Michigan and New York investigators acknowledge that some students may have considered suicidal gestures or threats to be actual attempts.
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Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:May 31, 1986
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