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New report shows teen suicide, substance misuse increasing concern

Addressing a Crisis: Cross-Sector Strategies to Prevent Adolescent Substance Misuse and Suicide is a new report from Trust for America’s Health and the Well Being Trust that calls for urgent action to help teens.

“There has been an alarming increase in teen suicide over the last decade,” said John Auerbach, president and CEO of Trust for America’s Health. “There has been an 87% increase in teen suicide between 2007 and 2017. Nearly 3000 teens died in one year alone, the year that we have the latest data, that’s 2017.”

Substance misuse is still up from where it was earlier in the decade, but the message may be getting through in recent years.

“From 2012 to 2017, for example, the percentage of 15 to 24 year-olds who are dying from drug overdoses actually increased by 58%,” said Auerbach. “However, there’s some good news, because in the latest data, that’s the data from the last year or two, we’re seeing a decrease in terms of the percentage of young people who have used illicit drugs.”

TFAH and WBT call for the expansion of evidence-based and cross sector strategies in order to save
lives.

“There’s a notion of something called trauma-informed services,” said Auerbach. “That is an attempt to create an environment, whether it’s in schools, health centers, among police, that when you encounter young people who are having behavioral issues or problems of a significant type, rather than assuming that they should just be punished for that, try to investigate what’s behind that.”

The report finds that substance misuse and suicide disproportionately affect adolescents from certain racial and ethnic minority groups, as well as LGBTQ youth. 48 percent of gay, lesbian and bisexual adolescents report considering or attempting suicide as compared to 13 percent of their heterosexual peers. American Indian/Alaskan Native teens experience the highest rates of suicide among any race
and ethnicity group in the United States: 60 percent higher than the national average for all teens.


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