Suicide rate hit 40-year peak among older teen girls in 2015

The suicide rates for teenage girls has hit an all time, 40-year high, according to new research.

Suicide rates among teenage girls are at a 40-year high.  

According the latest analysis from the Centers for Disease Control, the suicide rate for girls aged 15-19 years old doubled from 2007 to 2015 and grew by more than 30 percent for boys aged 15-19 years old.  

The data speaks to a disturbing, national trend.  

RELATED: 15 months for girl who sent texts urging suicide

“These numbers are absolutely staggering.  When you look at rates of any disease, illness going up so dramatically…this is huge. Absolutely terrifying and stunning to look at,” said McLean, Virginia l Psychiatrist Dr. Cathy McCarthy.    

What’s behind this trend? Many experts point to the increasing pressure and presence  of social media. Teenagers may find it difficult to escape from potential attacks or viewing what their peers are saying.   

"A lot of times with social media, people go home and they're still talking about the issue that happened during the day.  And there's no longer a place of refuge," said Anna Sargeant, a rising senior at McLean High School. 

"People don't think they can reach out.  And there's no sense of community anymore," said Piper Gaudet, also a rising senior at McLean.  

"I feel like social media has definitely negatively impacted a lot of people.  It always shows you the highlights of people's lives.  Everyone else's life seem so much better than your own life," said Leah Horan, a rising junior at McLean.  

Knowing the risk factors and protective factors identified by the Suicide Prevention Recourse Center can be helpful.  

Risk factors include a prior suicide attempt; abuse of alcohol or drugs; mental disorders such as depression; access to a lethal means; knowing someone who died by suicide, especially a family member;  social isolation; chronic disease and disability; lack of access to behavior healthcare.    

There are behaviors and life lessons that can protect a person.  They include having effective behavioral health care and treatment when needed; being connected to individuals, family, community and social institutions; life skills including coping skills and the ability to adapt to change; self-esteem and a sense of purpose or meaning in life; cultural, religious, or personal beliefs tha discourage suicide.  

"This is so serious, this rise, that we have to look into it further to see what is being looked at, what could be going on that's driving it," said Dr. McCarthy.  

This past year, McCarthy said she saw many patients preoccupied with the Netflix show "13 Reasons Why" which follows a teenage girls who commits suicides and sends postmortem messages to her friends blaming them for her final act.   McCarthy found it alarming that some teens said they liked the series, which they should have found it horrific.  "That desensitization" of human suffering is a very troubling.

Since the Netflix series came out after the latest suicide data, it is unclear how it may or may not play a role in real suicide.   

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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