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Washington Poison Center reports increasing adolescent self-harm & suspected suicide calls

·2 min read

Washington Poison Center reports increasing adolescent self-harm & suspected suicide calls

PR Newswire

SEATTLE, June 13, 2022

SEATTLE, June 13, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- In a new data dashboard (linked here), the Washington Poison Center (WAPC) notes increasing calls about adolescents who have ingested substances for self-harm or suspected suicide reasons. These trends are a continuation of increases occurring before the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a reinforcement of the pandemic's impact on youth mental health.

Washington Poison Center logo (PRNewsfoto/Washington Poison Center)
Washington Poison Center logo (PRNewsfoto/Washington Poison Center)

When comparing patient data in 2021 to 2019, the WAPC documented substantial increases in self-harm or suspected suicide ingestions among younger ages: the number of patients ages 6-12 years increased 58%, with most patients between the ages of 10 and 12. In the context of all 6-12 year old patients helped in 2021, self-harm or suspected suicide ingestions comprised 10%, or 300 out of 3,089 patients. Unintentional poison exposures, such as accidents with non-pharmaceutical products and medication errors, were far more common. Such a considerable increase in self-harm or suspected suicide, however, highlights the importance of monitoring children and adolescents of all ages for changes in their mood or behavior, engaging in discussion on their lives and mental health, and seeking help if any warning signs appear.

The majority of WAPC's adolescent self-harm or suspected suicide patients are female, and females drive the increasing trend in calls. In 2021, WAPC treated 2,344 female adolescents ages 6-17 years, compared to 431 male adolescents. From 2019 to 2021, the number of females increased 48%, while the number of males increased 3%.

Common over-the-counter and prescription medications comprise the top substances used by adolescents in self-harm or suspected suicide attempts. Safe storage and disposal are accordingly essential prevention and harm reduction strategies that caregivers need to implement in their homes: lock up over-the-counter and prescription medications, and dispose of any unneeded or unwanted medications. Find a secure medicine return location at takebackyourmeds.org.

Warning signs that an adolescent may be thinking of suicide:

  • Withdrawing from friends and family

  • Increased substance use or other high-risk behaviors

  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or being a burden

  • Giving away important possessions

  • Researching ways to kill themselves

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Adolescents may also call or text Teen Link at 1-866-TEENLINK (833-6546). Call the WAPC (1-800-222-1222) if someone has ingested a substance for self-harm or suspected suicide reasons. If the individual is unresponsive, call 911.

Media contact: mryuk@wapc.org.


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SOURCE Washington Poison Center