Pediatricians Should Look for Risk Factors Linked to Teen Suicide: Report

Pediatricians should look for risk factors linked to teen suicide, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises. Risk factors include substance abuse, a history of physical or sexual abuse, mood disorders, being lesbian, gay or bisexual, and bullying, the group notes in new guidelines.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teens, the group notes. The guidelines were first published in 2007, and were updated this year. Ben Shain, lead author of the new guidelines, said teen suicide rates may have increased because of the stresses and anger levels caused by electronic media.

They also may have risen because of a reluctance to use antidepressant medication, he said. USA Today notes the Food and Drug Administration required “black box warning” labels on antidepressants in 2004, which warn health care providers of increased risks of suicidal thinking and behavior among children and teens who are taking the medication. The warnings led to a decrease in antidepressant prescriptions, the article notes.

According to the guidelines, studies have since shown the benefits of antidepressants greatly outweigh the risks for most patients.

Bullying was added to the list of risk factors this year. “Though bullying is not a new phenomenon, there is much more emphasis on it in terms that it is really bad and causes suicidality,” Shain said. Those at greatest risk are children and teens who were both victims and bullies themselves.

He noted teens are at increased risk of suicide if they are online more than five hours daily. The report finds that suicidal teens may be at risk of searching the Internet for suicide-related topics, which can facilitate suicidal behavior in at-risk teens.

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