Child Suicide Rate on Rise, CDC Reports

From Associated Press

The rate of children who kill themselves has soared since the 1980s, especially among black males, and government officials blame the increased availability of guns.

The overall suicide rate of people younger than 25 has remained close to 5.5 per 100,000 people since 1980, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday. In 1992, 5,007 children, teen-agers and young adults committed suicide.

Young white males continued to have the highest rate overall, growing about 5% from 15.4 per 100,000 in 1980 to 16.1 in 1992.


Among all 10- to 14-year-olds, the rate rose 113% during the same period, from 0.8 per 100,000 to 1.7. The rate for all 15- to 19-year-olds rose 28.2%, from 8.5 to 10.9.

The increase was sharpest among black males. The overall rate in that category rose nearly 20%--from 8.5 per 100,000 in 1980 to 10.1 in 1992--while the rate among ages 10 to 14 soared 300%, from about 0.5 to about 2.

The CDC’s Dr. Alex Crosby said children have turned to guns to end their lives instead of methods that might fail. He noted that although suicides have increased among younger children, suicide attempts have not.

More than 50% of those younger than 25 who kill themselves do so with a gun, the CDC said.

“We believe very strongly that guns around children are ticking time bombs,” said Gwen Fitzgerald of the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence.

Researchers said suicidal children often abuse drugs, act aggressively, have family problems and suffer from stress.

Unlike adults, most children who kill themselves are too young to have a history of depression, which can lead to suicide.


Crosby said two kinds of prevention efforts seem to work best: peer support programs, in which students are trained to recognize troubled students and encourage them to get help, and gatekeeper programs, in which adults keep an eye on neighborhood children for signs of trouble.