"We noticed that anecdotally here in our own hospital over the last several years, we would have a fairly quiet summer as far as kids coming in for mental health issues, then right about four to six weeks after school started, we became inundated", he said, adding that the figures were consistent across all regions of the country. Results indicated that encounters for SI and SA more than doubled between 2008 and 2015.
In the new study published in the journal Pediatrics on May 16, researchers from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee examined data collected from the Pediatric Health Information System or PHIS. Two-thirds were girls. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.
Just over half of the encounters were children ages 15-17; another 37 percent were children ages 12-14, and 12.8 percent were children ages 5-11. Summer months only accounted for 18.5% (95%CI: 5.6-6.1) of total annual SI and SA encounters, whereas spring and fall months accounted for 28.3% and 28.1% of encounters, respectively. Examining encounters by age groups, adolescents (ages 15-17) had the greatest average annual increase (0.27 percentage points, 95% CI 0.23-0.30), followed by adolescents ages 12-14 (0.25 percentage points, 95% CI 0.21-0.27, P 0.001 for both). They suggested "age- and sex-specific approaches to suicide screening and prevention". Specifically, there were almost twice as many attempts reported in October as in July (9.9% of all encounters vs 5.9%, respectively).
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This observation has led them to believe that there may be a link between suicidal tendencies among the children and the increased stress and mental health challenges they experience when they are in school.
"To our knowledge, this is one of only a few studies to report higher rates of hospitalization for suicide during the academic school year", Plemmons said. "With our findings, we underscore the need for future work to explore the relationship between school and suicidal ideation".
Suicidal tendencies are the inclination for a person to have suicidal ideation or to make suicide attempts. Also, the database is limited to freestanding children's hospitals, and that there was no assessment of biological or psychosocial factors, due to the "ecological design" of the study.