New York, April 21 (IANS) The rate of suspected suicide attempts by poisoning rose among children as young as 10 years of age in the US during Covid-19 pandemic, according to a study.
The study, published in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, showed that the rate of suspected suicide attempts by poisoning among children aged 10-12 increased 73 per cent during 2021 compared with 2019.
Among adolescents aged 13-15, the rate of suspected suicide attempts by poisoning increased 48.8 per cent in 2021 versus 2019. The rate of suspected suicide attempts by poisoning among females ages 10-19 increased 36.8 per cent in 2021 compared with 2019.
The findings are based on a review of cases reported to the National Poison Data System by US poison centers as “intentional suspected suicide,” which encompass both suspected suicide attempts and intentional self-harm.
Girls accounted for 81.2 per cent of the suspected suicide attempts among adolescents ages 10-19 in 2021, compared with 77 per cent in 2019.
These increases in suspected suicides occurred while overall calls to the nation’s poison centers decreased 3.1 per cent from 2019 to 2021.
“This significant increase in suicide attempts during the pandemic surprised us,” said Christopher Holstege, chief of the Division of Medical Toxicology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.
“We are alarmed at the dramatic increase in suicide attempts in such a young population, which continues to escalate according to our data,” he added.
The two most common substances involved in the reported suicide attempts were acetaminophen and ibuprofen, two commonly available, over-the-counter pain relievers.
The other most used substances were two antidepressant medications — sertraline and fluoxetine — along with diphenhydramine, an antihistamine available over the counter that is frequently used to treat allergies.
“These findings suggest that the mental health of children and adolescents might still be affected by the pandemic, raising concerns about long-term consequences, especially given that previous attempted suicide has been found to be the strongest predictor of subsequent death by suicide,” the researchers wrote in the paper.
Based on the data, the researchers recommend a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention through partnerships among families, teachers, mental health professionals and public health leaders.
Given how frequently over-the-counter medications are used in suicide attempts, the researchers also suggest considering safety measures such as heightened public education initiatives on the safe storage of over-the-counter medications and the availability of assistance in case of an overdose.