A University of Virginia study has found there was a sharp increase in suicide attempts by poisoning among young people in the first full year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found there were 30 percent more intentional self-poisonings among young people ages 10 through 19 in 2021 than in 2019.
The sharpest increase was among those ages 10 to 12 — a 73 percent increase over 2019. Girls ages 10 to 19 were found to have committed 81.2 percent of suspected suicide attempts, up from 77 percent in 2019.
The study used data from cases reported to the National Poison Data System by U.S. poison centers as “intentional suspected suicide.” UVA Health said in a statement that that definition includes both suspected suicide attempts and intentional self-harm.
The increase is particularly concerning given that overall, calls to poison centers in 2021 were down 3.9 percent from 2019.
The most commonly reported substances used in these attempts were the over-the-counter pain relievers acetaminophen and ibuprofen; the antidepressant medications sertraline and fluoxetine, and the cold and allergy medication diphenhydramine, which can be purchased over the counter.
“These findings suggest that the mental health of children and adolescents might still be affected by the pandemic, raising concerns about long-term consequences, especially given that previous attempted suicide has been found to be the strongest predictor of subsequent death by suicide,” the researchers wrote in their paper.
If you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis, call the national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
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