My bullying series uncovers key insights and profiles young people who have committed suicide due to bullying (commonly called bullycide). Click here to read my series from the beginning
In The Missing Five Thousand, I presented Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suicide rates for the 10 to 25 age group over the period 1999 thru 2007. I split this group into two segments: a 10 to 19 group and a 20 to 25 group. What emerged was a small but progressive decline in the number of 10 to 19 suicides, and a progressive increase in the number of 20 to 25 suicides over this 9 year period.
What Does All This Mean?
Many are asking whether the recent rise in gay teen suicide constitutes an epidemic. With an 18 to 24 month delay in annual suicide data from the CDC, we are left to guess what is happening in 2008, 2009 and 2010. However, over the 1999 to 2007 period, we do see up and down movement. For example, in 2004, the 15 to 19 group saw a sizable jump in both the absolute number of suicides and the ratio of suicides to population for this age group.
Without minimizing the recent surge one bit, my guess is that we are not seeing an epidemic: that recent suicides more likely constitute a rise similar to what occurred in 2004. The AVG annual suicides over the period 1999 thru 2007 for this 15 to 19 group were 1,573. The HI was 1,700 (2004); the LO was 1,481 (2007). Movement within this range is predictable based on long-term CDC data. It is possible we are moving toward the upper range. Maybe we will not even get near the upper range. It will take some time to know for sure.
This we do know. For the 15 to 19 group, the AVG of 1,573 equates to 31 suicides per state per year. That is nearly 3 suicides per state every month for just this age group. If Dr. Caitlin Ryan is correct that 30% of all teen suicides are gay teens, that would yield about 1 gay teen suicide per state per month. Looking at the figures this way, the rate of suicide we are seeing right now may be in line with – or slightly above – historical trends.
If true, then we need to come to grips with a very convicting question. It is this: if this rate of gay teen suicide is somewhat normal and predictable, why have we paid little attention to these deaths until now? More specifically, why did it take Tyler Clementi to trigger national awareness of gay teen suicide in America?
I will address this question tomorrow. Until then, reach out if you need help. You are worth it…
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