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Suicide attempts, fueled by depression, start early in youth

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More than 10% of American youth attempt suicide before graduating from high school. In a new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, most of these kids have thoughts about killing themselves and engage in suicidal behavior much younger than that. A significant portion of kids’ first suicide attempt in middle or even elementary school.

Nearly 40% of young adults who participated in the study said they had tried to commit suicide and that they had made their first attempt before starting high school. The researchers found that the suicide attempts at the earliest ages were linked to a high degree of depression.

“Young adults who end up having chronic mental health problems show their struggles early,” explained James Mazza, lead author and professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington. “This study suggests that implementation of mental health programs may need to start in elementary and middle schools, and that youth in these grades are fairly good reporters of their own mental health.”

Adolescence is a struggle for even the most well-adjusted kids. For some, the ongoing pressure to experiment with drugs, alcohol, sexual relationships is too much. For others, there are questions about sexual orientation and social acceptance. And while all this is going on, a power struggle appears at home as kids try to more toward more autonomy while not quite sure knowing what that means.

“Adolescence is a time when kids are preparing to be more independent from their parents or guardians, but lack the experience of how to do this,” said Mazza. “And their support network – their friends – doesn’t have the experience either, especially in crisis situations.”

Suicide attempts rise around the 6th grade with rates peaking around the 8th or 9th grade.

Source: The National Institute on Drug Abuse, ScienceDaily

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