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Suicides Among Young Down 25%

June 11, 2004|From Associated Press

ATLANTA — The suicide rates among American children and teens fell about 25% in the last decade, reflecting a sharp drop-off in gun suicides, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

Hanging and other forms of suffocation -- including the use of belts, ropes and plastic bags -- overtook self-inflicted shootings in the 1990s as the most common method of suicide among 10- to 14-year-olds, the CDC said.

CDC researchers had no definitive explanation of why the overall rate dropped.

But a specialist in adolescent medicine said restrictions on children's access to firearms and decreased stigma over sexual orientation played important roles.

Sexual orientation has been a factor in many suicides among young males, said Dr. Charles Wibbelsman, chief of the Teenage Clinic of Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco.

"There are shows [concerning gays and lesbians] today that weren't on nine years ago," said Wibbelsman. He is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on adolescents.

"It's been much more 'out' and in that respect, we've saved a lot more people's lives."

The suicide rate for those 10 to 19 fell from 6.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 1992 to 4.6 in 2001, the CDC said. The number of suicides also fell in that period, from 2,151 to 1,883.

The decrease in gun suicides was the sharpest among 10- to 14-year-olds, dropping from 172 in 1992 to 90 in 2001.

Among those aged 15 to 19, deaths from self-inflicted shootings dropped from 1,251 to 838 during the same period, the CDC said.

Meanwhile, the number of suicides by hanging or other forms of suffocation rose among young people from 1992 to 2001.

Such suicides rose from 96 to 163 in that period among those aged 10 to 14. Among those aged 15 to 19, suicides by suffocation rose from 333 to 551.

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