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Emergency room visits by kids with suicidal thoughts, attempts doubles

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A new study shows there’s an alarming rise in child and teen suicide nationwide, and a psychiatrist with a local hospital says it’s similar to what’s happening in the Valley.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found the number of 5- to 18-year-olds who went to the emergency room for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts across the country doubled from 580,000 in 2007 to 1.12 million in 2015. The median age was 13 years old.

The findings were based on data from 30,000 emergency room visits from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.

“It’s on par with what we’ve noticed,” Dr. Adeola Adelayo, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital, told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “The average rate of admission of kids between the age of 13 to 17 has increased quite dramatically.”

She said child psychiatrists at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital are seeing more 13-year-olds visit the emergency room for suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts, rather than older kids.

She said the surge has especially affected Banner Thunderbird Medical Center Behavioral Health, which recently had to add more beds to accommodate the increase in teens they were seeing for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

Adelayo said one possible reason for the surge may be cyber bullying. She said social media has made it possible for embarrassing stories to spread and last longer.

“Kids are living under a magnifying glass and everyone is wanting to be perfect because they don’t want embarrassing stories to blow up,” she said. “It’s a sign of the times and the reality we live in.”

Parents are also facing more pressure and stress, and that “trickles down to their kids to where they’re just as stressed as their parents,” Adelayo added.

She said she advises parents to limit their children’s time on social media. She also advises them to talk to their children.

“If you’ve noticed that your child’s behavior has changed dramatically, don’t sweep it under the carpet,” she said. “Go to that child’s room and ask what the issue is.”

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