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Preteen suicide risk at 30 percent, study says

By Tauren Dyson

March 11 (UPI) -- Suicide is a growing problem in America, and it's especially problematic among young people, a study says.

More than 29 percent of youth between ages 10 and 12 who visited emergency rooms for either physical or psychiatric treatment screened positive for suicide risk, according to a study published Monday in Hospital Pediatrics. And among the preteens who visited the emergency room only for psychiatric problems, 54 percent showed a suicide risk, and more than 17 percent in that group had attempted suicide in the past.

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"Typically, suicidal thoughts and behaviors are seen in older teens. It was troubling to see that so many preteens screened positive for suicide risk, and we were alarmed to find that many of them had acted on their suicidal thoughts in the past," said Lisa Horowitz, a clinical scientist in the National Institutes of Mental Health and study author, in a news release. "This study shows that children as young as 10 who show up in the emergency department may be thinking about suicide, and that screening all preteens -- regardless of their presenting symptoms -- may save lives. Otherwise, they may pass through our medical systems undetected."

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Suicide is the third leading cause of youth between ages 10 to 12, according to the researchers. Additionally, of the 30 million youth who visited pediatric emergency visits in 2015, nearly 5.4 million were between ages 10 and 14.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 16 percent of high school children have considered suicide.

Across all age groups, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the CDC.

This problem may stem from an overall feeling of hopelessness among many young people. One recent study says 70 percent of teens mental health concerns as a major problem.

Unfortunately, many young people won't disclose any mental health problems unless prompted by a health professional.

"Many families use the emergency department as their sole source of health care, which presents a unique opportunity to identify these younger kids who are struggling with suicidal thoughts," said Maryland Pao, a researcher at NIMH and study author, in a news release. "But most preteens seen in the emergency department show up with medical problems and will not disclose their suicidal thoughts unless they are asked directly."

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