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Suicide rate keeps rising among young Americans

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A nearly 60% jump in suicides by young Americans since 2007 has experts alarmed and somewhat puzzled.

Suicides among children and young people aged 10 to 24 rose 57% from 2007 to 2018, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The increase in youth suicide has been pervasive across the U.S. No area is immune,” said report author Sally Curtin of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. “Hopefully, these data will inform prevention efforts.”

The surge was broad: 42 states had statistically significant increases between 2007-2009 and 2016-2018. Eight had statistically insignificant increases. Thirty-two states had hikes of 30% to 60%.

In actual numbers, the suicide rate among 10- to 24-year-olds jumped from about 7 per 100,000 in 2007 to nearly 11 per 100,000 in 2018, according to the National Vital Statistics Report published Sept. 11.

Jonathan Singer is president of the American Association of Suicidology. He said the increases in suicides in 2007-2009 were likely driven by the recession, which makes the average spike in 2016-2018 a little surprising. But he did note that gun sales increased during that time.

Singer said parents need to watch for signs that their children are troubled.

“Any time that a kid makes a statement to the effect of, ‘I don’t think that people care if I die,’ or ‘I think people would be better off if I weren’t around,’ you’ve got to take it seriously,” said Singer, an associate professor in the School of Social Work at Loyola University Chicago.

Also, he said, if a young person withdraws from usual activities or is bullied on social media, it shouldn’t be ignored.

Singer cited some places to reach out for help. Among them: the Crisis Text Line and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. For LGBT young people, there’s the Trevor Project. For college students, campus counseling is often available, and if you’re in the military, there’s the Veterans Crisis Line.

Because suicide is often impulsive, getting immediate help can defuse the impulse to kill yourself, said Singer, who wasn’t part of the CDC report.

“Having a five- to 10-minute chat or phone conversation in the moment when something is stressful can be just as valuable as spending an hour a month in therapy,” Singer said.

In the new report, the researchers found that the suicide rate for adolescents and young adults more than doubled in New Hampshire between 2007 and 2018. Elsewhere, rate increases included 22% in Maryland 41% in Illinois 51% in Colorado, and 79% in Oregon.

In 2016-2018, suicide rates among young people were highest in Alaska, while some of the lowest rates were in the Northeast. Yet even New Jersey, which had the lowest rate in that three-year period, saw a 39% increase, Curtin pointed out.

Dr. Emmy Betz, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, thinks the reasons for the increases in young people’s suicides are complicated and not clearly understood.

“The first thing is just to look out for each other, for our kids, for our communities and ask if we’re worried about someone and say something,” she said. “It can feel awkward, but people are grateful, usually.”

Use available resources, added Betz, who is also a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians. She was not involved with the study.

“The crisis hotline is free and available, and there’s online chat, so there are ways to reach out and get help even if you feel like you don’t want to talk to someone in your life about what you’re going through,” Betz said. “Or if you’re worried about someone and you don’t know what to do, you can always call those resources as well.”

If someone is having an immediate crisis, call 911 for help, she added.

Betz noted that parents should keep the tools of suicide, such as guns and drugs, locked so that young people can’t get to them.

Singer added that what this new report doesn’t reflect is a very large increase in suicidal thoughts among youth this year, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic and a souring economy.

“But it is also important to know that there’s not a direct relationship between an increase in suicidal thoughts and a corresponding increase in suicide deaths,” he said.

More information

For more on suicide, see the U.S. National Institute on Mental Health.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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‘Green prescriptions’ could cancel mental health benefits for some

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So-called “green prescriptions” may end up being counterproductive for people with mental health conditions, researchers say.

Spending time in nature is believed to benefit mental health, so some doctors are beginning to “prescribe” outdoor time for their patients.

That led researchers to investigate whether being in nature helps actually does help people with issues such as anxiety and depression. They collected data from more than 18,000 people in 18 countries.

The takeaway: Time in nature does provide several benefits for people with mental health conditions, but only if they choose on their own to visit green spaces.

While being advised to spend time outdoors can encourage such activity, it can also undermine the potential emotional benefits, according to the authors of the study published this month in the journal Scientific Reports.

The researchers said they were surprised to find that people with depression were spending time in nature as often as folks with no mental health issues, and that people with anxiety were doing so much more often.

While in nature, those with depression and anxiety tended to feel happy and reported low anxiety. But those benefits appeared to be undermined when the visits were done at others’ urging, the investigators found.

The more external pressure people with depression and anxiety felt to visit nature, the less motivated they were to do so and the more anxious they felt.

“These findings are consistent with wider research that suggests that urban natural environments provide spaces for people to relax and recover from stress,” said study leader Michelle Tester-Jones, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

But the findings also show that health care practitioners and loved ones should be sensitive about recommending time in nature for people who have mental health issues.

“It could be helpful to encourage them to spend more time in places that people already enjoy visiting, so they feel comfortable and can make the most of the experience,” Tester-Jones said in a university news release.

More information

For more on the benefits of green spaces, go to the National Recreation and Park Association.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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Study: Nearly half of ‘essential workers’ in U.S. at risk for severe COVID-19

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Nov. 9 (UPI) — Nearly half of those classified as “essential workers” in the United States are at increased risk for severe COVID-19, according to an analysis published Monday by JAMA Internal Medicine.

This means that more than 74 million workers and those with whom they live could be at risk for serious illness, based on disease risk guidelines developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers said.

“Many parts of the country face high and rising infection rates, [and] we should not think about work exposure and health risks in isolation, given that workers and persons at increased risk often live in the same households,” study co-author Thomas M. Selden told UPI.

“Insofar as we can reduce the prevalence of COVID-19 in our communities, we can reduce the extent to which policymakers have to choose between the economy and keeping the population safe,” said Selden, an economist with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic spread to the United States in March, states and cities across the country have instituted lockdown measures designed to limit the spread of the disease.

Many of these measures entailed closing schools and non-essential businesses, with only banks, grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses deemed to provide vital services allowed to stay open.

For this study, Selden and his colleagues analyzed data on the U.S. workforce to examine how many people were in essential jobs, how often they were able to work at home, their risk for severe COVID-19 and the potential health risks for their household members.

Of the more than 157 million workers across the country, 72% are in jobs deemed essential — based on U.S. Department of Homeland Security criteria — and more than three-fourths of all essential workers are unable to work at home, Selden said.

Essential workers include those in the medical and healthcare, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics and energy, water and wastewater industries, as well as those in law enforcement and public works, the DHS criteria stipulates.

The study notes that up to 60% of these workers have underlying health issues, placing them at increased risk for severe COVID-19 if they get infected, as defined by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Those with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and chronic respiratory conditions like asthma are considered to be at high risk for serious illness, the CDC says.

Based on these findings, between roughly 57 million and 74 million adults working in on-site essential jobs — and their families — are at increased risk for serious illness, Selden and his colleagues estimated.

“Policymakers face important decisions about how to balance the economic benefits of keeping workers employed and the public health benefits of protecting those with increased risk of severe COVID-19,” Selden said.

“These issues arise in the context of decisions to close segments of the economy and decisions about how to distribute vaccines, which will initially be available only with limited supply, [and] become all the more difficult when the prevalence of infection rises in parts of the country,” he said.



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Study: Hydroxychloroquine no better than placebo for hospitalized COVID-19 patients

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Nov. 9 (UPI) — COVID-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine showed no signs of significant improvement in “clinical status” compared with those given a placebo, a study published Monday by JAMA found.

Patients given a five-day course of the drug were scored as “category six” based on the World Health Organization’s seven-category COVID Ordinal Outcomes Scale, the same as those given a placebo, the researchers said.

Also, 28 days after they started treatment, 10.4% of those treated with hydroxychloroquine died, just slightly lower than the 10.6% fatality rate in the placebo group.

“The results show that hydroxychloroquine did not help patients recover from COVID-19,” study co-author Dr. Wesley H. Self told UPI.

“In the study, patients treated with hydroxychloroquine and those treated with a placebo had nearly identical outcomes, [so] I do not foresee any role for hydroxychloroquine in acutely ill patients hospitalized with COVID-19,” said Self, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Hydroxychloroquine is an immunosuppressive and anti-parasitic drug that is used to treat malaria.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, it was touted by President Donald Trump and others as a potential treatment for the virus, despite the lack of any scientific data supporting its use.

Given its effectiveness helping those sickened with malaria — a mosquito-borne infection — to recover, “there was a strong rationale for why hydroxychloroquine may have been beneficial for patients with COVID-19,” according to Self.

However, in July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned against the drug’s use in the treatment of those infected with the new coronavirus, due to potentially serious heart-related side effects.

For this study, Self and his colleagues treated 433 COVID-19 patients at 34 hospitals across the United States with either the drug or a placebo for a period of five days.

Patients assigned to the hydroxychloroquine group received 400 milligrams of the drug in pill form twice a day for the first two doses and then 200 mg. in pill form twice a day for the next eight doses, for a total of 10 doses over the five days.

All of the patients were then assessed based on the WHO’s COVID Ordinal Outcomes Scale, which categorizes those infected according to disease severity.

Most of the patients in both the hydroxycholorquine group and the placebo group were in “category six,” meaning they were hospitalized and receiving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or invasive mechanical ventilation to maintain their breathing, the researchers said.

“Our results, especially when combined from other studies conducted in the United Kingdom and Brazil, are good evidence that hydroxychloroquine does not provide benefit for patients hospitalized with COVID-19,” Self said.



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