Get Help Now! Most Insurance Plans Accepted

Teen suicide reaches an all-time high; study suggests possible causes
Jul 22 2019

Teen suicide reaches an all-time high; study suggests possible causes

Mental Health Substance Abuse

Researchers have observed a rise of nearly 30 percent in the number of suicides across the U.S. between 2000 and 2016, revealed a recent article published in the JAMA Network in June 2019. One particular area of concern was the increase in the number of suicides among teens and young adults. Compared to the rate of suicides among teens aged 15 to 19 years in 2000, 2017 saw a rise of nearly 47 percent, the highest in almost two decades.

Suicide has been identified as the second leading cause of death globally amongst those aged between 15 and 29; and for those aged between 10 and 34 in the U.S. with as many as 6,200 cases being reported in 2017. Another trend which was observed was the increase in the suicide rates among females especially among teenage girls post 2009 and the increase among teenage boys post 2014.

A team of researchers from Harvard Medical School identified the underlying reasons for this growing phenomenon.

Social media and reduced stigmatization contributing to high suicide rates

Oren Miron, co-author of the study and a research associate at Harvard Medical School, suggested that one of the reasons for the growing number of teenage suicides may be the ongoing opioid epidemic and the added level of stress and other mental health disorders associated with addiction. Another factor which was identified as probable reasons for teenage suicides was social media and the decrease in social stigma associated with parents and guardians reporting suicides.

Clarifying that the study did not establish these likely causes as confirmed reports, Miron said more research was needed to specifically identify the reasons.


Following were the observations of the study:

  • In 2017, there were 11.8 deaths per 100,000 teens aged from 15 to 19 years compared to 8 deaths per 100,000 teens in the same age bracket in 2000.
  • In 2017, there were 17 suicide deaths per 100,000 young adults aged from 20 to 24 years compared to 12.5 per 100,000 young adults in 2000.
  • The suicide rates fluctuated from year to year, indicating that the increasing rates were not a direct result of modernization.

Preventive measures

Since teenage suicides have been attributed to substance abuse, experts have suggested preventative measures such as:

  • Limiting access to prescription drugs at home.
  • Parents and guardians should pay attention towards their child and their lifestyle.
  • Changes in sleep patterns, social circles, and behavioral patterns should be observed.

Social media also has it pros and cons. While it can be used for bullying and shaming leading to mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, it can also be used for helping people suffering from mental health disorders. Proper monitoring of social media can help in picking up signs related to substance abuse and mental illnesses among teens.

Victor Schwartz, a child health expert said that the problem with social media was that it took away the traditional method of face-to face interactions which adversely affected a teenager’s mental health. Additionally, intense changes in a child’s lifestyle should alert the parents. These should be taken as a warning sign and a closer eye should be kept on the teenager.

Seeking treatment for dual-diagnosis

More often than not, teens develop mental disorders as a result of opioid addiction. At times, they start taking opioids or other substances to medicate the symptoms of a mental disorder leading to an addiction. In either case, one leads to the development of the other and such co-existence of a mental disorder and addiction is called dual diagnosis or co-occurring diseases.

According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health report, approximately 345,000 adolescents aged between 12 to 17 had a mental illness and a substance use disorder (SUD). Of these, 276,000 adolescents suffered a mental disorder with severe impairment. Co-occurring disorders, if left untreated, can lead to serious physical and mental health consequences that seriously deteriorate the quality of life, affecting the future of the teen.

Fortunately, dual-diagnosis is treatable. If you know a teen displaying the symptoms of either a SUD or a mental disorder or both, then direct them to Adeona Healthcare. The leading dual-diagnosis treatment center for teens can guide you while selecting the right treatment option for your teen. To learn more about dual-diagnosis rehabilitation for teens, call our 24/7 helpline (888) 379-9360 or chat online with our treatment advisors.