New data in a report published by the State Department of Children and Families shows suicide is the third leading cause of death for New Jersey youth ages 10 to 24.
The data, which is from 2002 to 2015, shows the number of suicides among kids and young adults increasing 40 percent over that timeframe: from 3.2 suicides out of every 100,000 children in 2002 to 5.5 in 2015.
“Our intrinsic need is to figure out what the cause is so that we can figure out how to solve it,” said Phillis Alongi, clinical director of the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide.
“It’s multi-determinational, and there are many, many reasons that come together like a perfect storm, coupled with crisis thinking, that would drive someone to do that,” she added.
Medical professionals caution defining specific factors, though they point to things like increased rates of anxiety and depression, more academic and social pressure, the rise of social media and online bullying, and greater access to drugs and alcohol.
“It is a public health issue. We need to pay attention to these reports and the data, and then more importantly, what are we going to do with that data?” said Maureen Brogan, statewide coordinator for Traumatic Loss Coalitions for Youth.
The report indicates that the Skyland region in rural northwest New Jersey has the highest rate of youth suicide at 7.5 per 100,000 persons. And while rates are declining for older teens, they’re increasing for the younger, more than doubling, according to the CDCP, with teen boys twice as likely to die by suicide than teen girls.