The number of suicide attempts has risen sharply since 2011, including among children aged 5 to 11

All age groups saw a double-digit annual increase in self-harm visits, with the number over 65 rising by 30%

Although suicide deaths actually fell during the pandemic, they began to rise again in 2021, with youth suicide rates peaking, especially among those aged 15 to 24. The sharpest increase occurred among women aged 10 to 14, who saw their suicide rate increase by 15%, while men of the same age saw their rate drop by 6% over the same period, making them the only group to experience an overall sees a decline.

Now a new report in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows just how big the spike in suicide attempts was: Between 2011 and 2022, the number of emergency department visits involving self-harm grew from 0.6% in 2011 to 2.1% in 2020, while the number increased from 261 per 100,000 people to 871 in 2011 per 100,000 people in 2022, an overall increase of 18.8%.

The report notes that every age group saw double-digit annual increases, including children aged 5 to 11, but the biggest increase in self-harm visits occurred among adults over 65, which increased by 30% annually.

In total, almost half a million people died by suicide between 2011 and 2022, while suicide rates have risen by 35% since 2000.

These data were analyzed by psychiatric epidemiologist Greg Rhee of the UConn School of Medicine and colleagues from the Mayo Clinic, Columbia University, Yale University School of Medicine and the Veterans Administration Connecticut Healthcare System, found using data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, an annual sampling of hospitals across the country by the CDC.

“Intentional self-harm is preventable. We may be able to reduce suicide or suicide-related events. There are several ways. Many people experiencing mental health issues could be cared for so they don’t harm themselves,” Rhee said in a statement.

Biden administration initiatives

These numbers put into perspective what was clear even before the pandemic: that there is a national mental health crisis.

As such, the Biden administration has launched a number of initiatives to help combat the problem, including unveiling the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, a new, easier-to-remember number for the suicide prevention and crisis hotline, which it rolled out in July 2022 . .

After a month, the administration said total volume was up 45% year-on-year. In that month alone, the 988 Lifeline answered 152,000 more contacts, including calls, chats and texts, than a year earlier, and reduced the average response speed from 2.5 minutes to 42 seconds.

In May 2023, the White House announced it would spend $200 million to scale up 988, along with new resources for school mental health, including the Department of Education (ED) allocating more than $280 million in funding to strengthen healthcare. pipeline of mental health professionals working in schools.

In September, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) awarded $232.2 million in grants for suicide prevention and behavioral health services for at-risk communities, including more than $200 million in new funding for states, territories and tribal nations and organizations to support local build capacity for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and related crisis services.

Other policies included the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), announcing a new model called Innovation in Behavioral Health (IBH) in which it will test approaches to tackle the problems. behavioral health, physical health, and social needs of the Medicare and Medicaid population.

The IBH model will connect adults with mental health and/or substance use disorders with community-based behavioral health organizations and providers, such as community mental health centers, public or private practices, opioid treatment programs, and safety net providers where individuals can receive outpatient care. mental health and SUD services.

In February, the White House announced $36.9 million in funding opportunities for grant programs to support behavioral health services in the U.S., and in May it announced it would set aside $46.8 million, which would be disbursed by HHS and SAMHSA to fund healthcare opportunities. behavioral health space, including youth mental health, the behavioral health workforce, substance use treatment and recovery, integrated health care solutions, and training and technical assistance.

(Image source: stallionsafetyconsulting.ca)

Of all emergency department visits in 2011, only 0.6% were for self-harm. That number had risen to 2.1% of all emergency room visits by 2020, according to data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, an annual sample of hospitals across the country by the CDC. The data was analyzed by psychiatric epidemiologist Greg Rhee of the UConn School of Medicine and colleagues from the Mayo Clinic, Columbia University, Yale University School of Medicine and the Veterans Administration Connecticut Healthcare System. The figures per 100,000 inhabitants have increased from 261 per 100,000 in 2011 to 871 in 2020.

“If we translate the data into percentage change, that equates to an increase of 18.8%, which is huge,” says Rhee. The most notable increase was the number of self-harm visits for adults over 65, which increased by 30% annually. But every age group saw double-digit annual increases, including children ages 5 to 11.

The increase in suicides and suicide attempts has already been noted by the US government, which two years ago introduced a new crisis telephone number, 988, where people can access crisis advice and get referrals to other resources. But other recent analyzes by Rhee and colleagues have shown that high barriers to mental health care remain.

“Intentional self-harm is preventable. We may be able to reduce suicide or suicide-related events. There are several ways. Many people experiencing mental health issues could be cared for so they don’t harm themselves,” Rhee said.