These facts and figures give us a pretty accurate picture of what we’re facing in terms of teen suicide. The statistics assume an even greater significance when examined in the context of recent history. Viewed from this perspective, the numbers reveal an interesting trend. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the teen suicide rate actually reached its highest point sometime during the 1990s. Then between 1999 and 2007, the suicide rate among ten- to nineteen-year-olds fell 15 percent, to 3.9 percent. Since then the rate has picked up again, almost reaching its earlier apex. Experts now tell us that the suicide rate for white children and teens from ages ten to seventeen rose 70 percent between 2006 and 2016. While black children and teens kill themselves less often than white youth, their rate of increase was even higher, at 77 percent.
Is this good news or bad? The answer seems to be both. On the one hand, the teen suicide rate is no higher than it was twenty years ago, and it’s still a relatively small number. On the other hand, it’s on the rise again after having fallen for more than a decade. And of course, statistics are meaningless if it’s your child who’s the one in one hundred thousand.
While there’s no need for panic, there’s a real need for vigilance and hard work. After all, even one young life lost to suicide is one too many. And there are good reasons to suppose we’ll be losing a lot more than that unless all of us—parents, teachers, pastors, youth workers, and public servants alike—take deliberate, preventative measures.
- Sally C. Curtin et al., “Recent Increases in Injury Mortality Among Children and Adolescents Ages 10-19 Years in the United States: 1999-2016,” National Vital Statistics Reports 67, no. 4 (June 1, 2018), https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr67/nvsr67_04.pdf (accessed September 12, 2018).
- Jayne O’Donnell and Anne Saker, “Teen Suicide is soaring. Do spotty mental health and addiction treatment share blame?”, USA Today Network, March 19, 2018, https://www.usatoday .com/story/news/politics/2018/03/19/teen-suicide-soaring-do-spotty-mental-health-and-addiction-treatment-share-blame/428148002/ (accessed September 12, 2018).