In honor of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, we’ve been reviewing the latest data, resources, and efforts to reduce youth suicide in Kentucky. This week’s blog post looks at what we can learn from the data, with next week’s post focused on prevention resources and actions taking place in Kentucky.

The last time we blogged on youth suicide, we looked specifically at the deaths of teens ages 15-19. However, it will likely shock you to find out that the latest available data (for 2017) shows suicide is an increasing cause of death among Kentucky youth ages 10-14.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services and REACH Evaluation recently released the results of the 2018 Kentucky Incentives for Prevention (KIP) survey, taken by 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th graders in 154 of Kentucky’s 173 school districts.

  • Compared to the 2014 results – the first year questions on suicide appeared in the survey – students were more likely in 2018 to say they had seriously considered suicide in the past year and more likely to say they had actually attempted suicide at least once in the past year.
  • In 2018, between 14 and 16 percent of 8th, 10th and 12th graders had seriously considered attempting suicide, compared to 8.5 percent of 6th.
  • Also, approximately 8 percent of 8th and 10th graders had attempted suicide in the past year, compared to approximately 6 percent of 6th and 12th.

The High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows us that just as the data differs by age, so too does it differ by race and ethnicity. In Kentucky, Black and Hispanic youth are much more likely to have attempted suicide than their White peers (see chart below).

Data provided by the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center shows that when looking at the circumstances of suicide deaths of Kentucky youth ages 11-14:

  • school problems were identified in 44 percent of cases;
  • 26 percent had received mental health treatment, and;
  • 23 percent had a mental health diagnosis.

For 15-19-year-olds, 28 percent of suicide deaths were linked to a depressed mood, 24 percent had a mental health diagnosis, and 20 percent cited problems with an intimate partner.

The KIP survey also provides some insight into contributing factors to youth suicide in Kentucky. Students who have engaged in substance use are more likely to say they have considered and/or attempted suicide than those who haven’t used substances. And the higher the number of substances used, the likelihood of a suicide attempt increases. There is also a significant difference in suicide attempts among students who are bullied or cyberbullied versus those who do not experience that. In fact, those who are bullied or cyberbullied are approx. four times as likely to report thoughts of suicide or actual suicide attempts.

The above data on suicide prevalence by age, race, and relevant circumstances/contributing factors can be very useful in helping public health professionals, schools, and youth services providers plan and implement effective policies, programs, and practices to prevent and intervene in youth suicide.

However, for most Kentuckians, hearing youth suicide is a growing problem is all the data they need – what they really want are resources to keep loved ones from taking their own life.

Suicide can be prevented and there are many resources available for people in crisis and their loved ones. Stay tuned for next week’s post focused on suicide prevention resources.