A troubling trend for youth mental health and suicide rates emerges from a new annual report released Feb. 27 by the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force.
The suicide rate for youths between the ages of 10- and 17-years-old reached the highest in two decades in 2021 in North Carolina, according to the report. There were 62 suicides among young people in this age range, 42% of those being among teens ages 15 to 17.
In 2002, there were 2.1 suicides for the 10-17 age range per 100,000 people, compared to 5.7 per 100,000 in 2021 — nearly triple the amount. In 2015, 16% of N.C. high school students seriously considered attempting suicide in the last 12 months, compared to 22% in 2021.
For the 10-14 age range, suicide was the second leading cause of death — at 17% — behind motor vehicle accidents — at 25%. For ages 15-17, homicide was the leading cause followed by motor vehicle accidents and suicide at third.
A jump in self-injury was another alarming trend. In 2021, there were 783 hospitalizations and emergency room visits for self-injury among teens and pre-teens. Alarmingly, there was a 46% increase in self-inflected injury emergency room visits among females ages 10 to 14 between 2020 and 2021.
The N.C. Child Fatality Task Force is a legislative study commission responsible for studying causes of child death and making recommendations to the governor and the General Assembly on solutions.
In December, the 2021 N.C. Youth Risk Behavior Survey revealed similar trends in youth mental health. On a wide range of metrics, young people reported feeling worse off than their counterparts a decade ago.