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Posted: August 04, 2017

Suicide rate for teen girls hits 40-year record high -- is social media to blame?

Mark Mawson/Getty Images

By Fiza Pirani, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

According to new data released Thursday by Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates among 15- to 19-year-old girls doubled between 2007 and 2015, reaching a 40-year high.

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That means for every 100,000 American girls in 2015, 5 died by suicide.

Additionally, the suicide rate among teen boys in the same age group and year range rose by more than 30 percent.

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The analysis mirrors a rising national trend in suicide rates across all age groups, CDC suicide expert Thomas Simon told CNN.

» RELATED: Read the full CDC report

So, what’s going on?

Experts such as Simon and Carl Tishler, adjunct associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at the Ohio State University, said there are a lot of possible factors.

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Some factors include substance abuse, relationship conflicts, lack of emotional support, the stigma associated with mental health, exposure to violence and economic instability.

Tishler specifically cited the rise of the opioid epidemic as a possible factor.

“Some of the opiate or heroin overdoses in adolescents may be interpreted by emergency departments as suicides. There may be more internet suicides,” Tishler told CNN.

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What about social media?

While some public health studies have shown negative effects of social media on young people’s mental health and well-being, Simon said social media isn’t always negative.

“Social media can help increase connections between people, and it's an opportunity to correct myths about suicide and to allow people to access prevention resources and materials,” he told CNN.

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Still, he acknowledges that cyberbullying can greatly impact vulnerable youth.

Additionally, cyberbullying in social media may negatively influence teenage girls more than boys, according to Emory University School of Medicine professor Dorian Lamis.

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“Some research has suggested that the timing of puberty in girls is a contributing factor for the increased suicide rate,” Lamis told CNN.

Lamis said the hormonal, mental and physical changes associated with puberty may leave teen girls “vulnerable to depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders earlier on in life.”

“The message for parents, teachers, coaches and religious leaders is to not be afraid to talk to a young person when they are concerned,” Simon said.

Read more from CNN.

If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, or if you are concerned for someone else, here are some helpful resources:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24 hours)

Call 1-800-273-8255

Online chat

Suicide prevention resources for parents, guardians and families

Suicide prevention resources for teens

Suicide prevention resources for survivors of suicide loss

More resources and programs at the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.


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