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Aspirin, Antihistamines: Kids Often Use OTC Drugs in Suicide Attempts

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Oct. 7, 2019 (HealthDay News) — More teens are attempting suicide by overdosing on drugs, and new research suggests they are often turning to over-the-counter (OTC) medications like ibuprofen and aspirin in their efforts.

Antidepressants, antipsychotics and antihistamines were also common choices, the researchers added.

“What we were seeing was youth increasing suicide attempts using medications readily available in the home,” said study author John Ackerman, suicide prevention coordinator at the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

“People think that youth are thinking deeply about which medicine to take, but when someone is in crisis, it’s what’s in the medicine cabinet. These drugs are having very serious medical outcomes for young people,” Ackerman added.

Girls were much more likely than boys to attempt suicide by what is known as “self-poisoning,” and suicide attempts by self-poisoning in children and teens were higher in rural communities. These types of suicide attempts occurred more often during the school year, the study found.

When people survive a self-poisoning suicide attempt, they may have heart problems or seizures afterwards. Ackerman said that the drugs may have an impact on brain function as well.

“This paper is a call to action for parents to increase their safe storage practices and talk to kids about their mental health concerns,” he added. “Ask your kids how they’re doing.”

Parents may think it’s impossible to keep kids away from all medicines. “But, if you’re adding barriers — like a lock box or safe, and counting medication — those seemingly simple tasks can help. They can be a bridge to a child or teen seeing other options,” Ackerman explained.

From 2000 to 2018, more than 1.6 million young people between the ages of 10 and 25 attempted suicide by self-poisoning. The rates of these suicide attempts in young people aged 10 to 18 started to increase in 2011, the study found.

Almost one-quarter of those attempts resulted in a serious medical outcome. The drugs most used in these attempts were OTC pain relievers, antidepressants, antihistamines and antipsychotics. Opioids were only involved in 7% of cases with a serious medical outcome.

Continued

ADHD medications were more commonly used in the younger group — 10- to 15-year-olds.

Less densely-populated states were more likely to have reported cases ending in serious medical outcomes.

“Rural communities are more at risk. It might be social isolation, lack of access to mental health care and economic factors,” Ackerman suggested.

In kids 18 and younger, suicide attempts by self-poisoning occurred more during the school months of September through May. This pattern wasn’t seen in the 19- to 21-year-old age group. The 22- to 25-year-old group had an increase in the summer months.

“Younger people seem to be more vulnerable during the school year,” Ackerman said. Although the study didn’t look at causes behind the findings, he said that school stress, peer behaviors, bullying and social media likely play a role.

Daniel Reidenberg, executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, reviewed the study and said, “In an acute suicidal crisis, people turn to the quickest, most easily available means.”

He said there are usually signs before someone reaches a crisis level. “People might be struggling with sleep; their appetite might be off; they might talk about aches and have other complaints about physical problems. They don’t want to go to school. They don’t want to interact with their friends,” Reidenberg said.

Of even greater concern is when someone talks about being a burden or says they have no hope for the future. They might start to look for ways to die or talk about suicide.

Reidenberg said a huge red flag is if someone just can’t sleep for a few days. “Anxiety and agitation become worse as someone gets sicker. It’s very, very important that anyone who might be at risk of suicide be monitored for sleep. It can be hard to notice disrupted sleep patterns in teens, but if there’s one, two or three days without sleep, you need to have a conversation, and hopefully get some professional help.”

Reidenberg added that connections are crucial: “The more connections that people have, the better off they are. A sense of aloneness increases the sense of distress and the risk of suicide.”

Continued

If you find your child has attempted self-poisoning, Ackerman said it’s important to get them to the ER immediately. The sooner they get help, the better the chances for a good outcome.

The findings were published Oct. 7 in Clinical Toxicology.

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Sources

SOURCES: John Ackerman, Ph.D., suicide prevention coordinator, Center for Suicide Prevention and Research, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio; Daniel J. Reidenberg, Psy.D., executive director, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, and managing director, National Council for Suicide Prevention, and general secretary, International Association for Suicide Prevention; Oct. 7, 2019,Clinical Toxicology

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Study: More U.S. Teen Girls Are Victims of Suicide

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Sept. 13, 2019 (HealthDay News) — The gender gap in teen suicide is smaller than previously estimated, with more girls dying by suicide each year, a new study contends.

Suicide death rates among 10- to 19-year-old girls have been systematically underestimated, while rates among boys have been overestimated, according to the report published Sept. 13 in JAMA Network Open.

Experts have pegged the male-to-female gender gap in suicide among teens at 3-to-1, but it’s really closer to 2-to-1, researchers said.

“The reduced gender gap in suicide is a surprise,” said lead researcher Dr. Bin Yu, a doctoral student in epidemiology at the University of Florida. “It is really important that we not underestimate the risk of suicide among girls.”

The new model found that suicide deaths among U.S. teens have risen continuously during the past decade, and at a more rapid rate than reflected in earlier estimates, researchers said.

Conventional methods of estimating annual suicide death rates are flawed, Yu said, because they don’t take into account the generational risks associated with suicide.

For example, this study showed a decline in suicide risk for millennials born between 1980 and 1995, along with an increase in risk for those born after 1995.

To develop the best possible estimate, Yu and co-author Dr. Xinguang Chen from the UF College of Medicine created a model that combines three factors: a person’s age, the year of their birth, and the year in which they died by suicide.

This new way of estimating suicide rates pegged the death rate among boys at 4.9 per 100,000 in 1999 and 8.7 per 100,000 in 2017. Previous estimates placed boys’ rates at 7.4 in 1999 and 10.7 in 2017.

Using the new model, suicide rates among girls were 1.7 per 100,000 in 1999 and 4.2 in 2017, compared with earlier estimates of 1.6 in 1999 and 3.5 in 2017.

“The persistent suicide increase we see without a tendency to slow down underscores the need for increased effort at all levels for youth suicide prevention, with a further strengthening of suicide prevention interventions aimed at girls,” Yu said.

Continued

The new rate model supports other recent studies that have found an increase in suicide among teens, particularly among girls, said Dr. Igor Galynker, director of the Suicide Research and Prevention Laboratory at Mount Sinai in New York City.

“Not only is the suicide rate increasing in the United States, the increase in suicide rate is increasing,” he said.

The teenage suicide rate rose roughly 3% a year up to 2014, but since then, it has increased by an average 10% a year, said Galynker, who wasn’t part of the new study.

While this new study did not examine possible reasons for the increase, Yu noted that teens born after 1995 have been more heavily exposed to social media and have grown up during the ongoing U.S. opioid epidemic.

Galynker said teens’ screen use and the amount of time they spend with social media have both been linked to increased suicide risk.

“These risks are more pronounced for girls than they are for boys,” he said. “The data shows that girls’ use of social media is more likely to result in interpersonal stress. Compared to boys, girls use social media more frequently, they are more likely to be subjected to cyberbullying, and the cyberbullying is more likely to cause stress and emotional problems in girls than boys. Use of social media is also more likely to result in depression in girls.”

Future research should focus on the methods teens use in suicide attempts, Yu said. That knowledge could help prevent future suicides.

The Nemours Foundation lists these warning signs that a teen might be considering suicide:

  • Loose talk about suicide, death in general, or hints that they might not be around anymore.
  • Expressed feelings of hopelessness or guilt.
  • A sense that they are withdrawing from friends or family.
  • Giving away treasured possessions to siblings or friends.
  • No desire to take part in their favorite activities.
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits.

A parent who thinks their teen is in immediate danger should call 911 or a suicide hotline number, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).

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Sources

SOURCES: Bin Yu, M.D., M.P.H., doctoral student, epidemiology, University of Florida, Colleges of Medicine and Public Health and Health Professions, Gainesville; Igor Galynker, M.D., director, Suicide Research and Prevention Laboratory at Mount Sinai, New York City;JAMA Network Open, Sept. 13, 2019

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Vets With Traumatic Brain Injury Have Higher Suicide Risk: Study

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 11, 2019 — The risk of suicide among U.S. military veterans who have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is more than double that of other vets, a new study finds.

Researchers analyzed records of more than 1.4 million vets who received care from the U.S. Veterans Health Administration (VHA) between 2005 and 2015.

They compared severity of the traumatic brain injury with diagnoses of psychiatric and other medical conditions, along with method of death in suicide cases.

After adjusting for depression and other mental health diagnoses, the researchers found that veterans with moderate or severe TBI were 2.45 times more likely to die by suicide than those without TBI. The study only found an association and not a cause-and-effect link, however.

During the study period, the suicide rate was 86 per 100,000 person years for those with TBI and 37 per 100,000 person years for others. A person year is a formula that accounts for the number of people in a study and how long they were followed.

Of vets studied who died by suicide, 68% used guns. The rate was 78% among vets with moderate or severe TBI, according to the University of Colorado-led study.

“Together, these findings underscore the importance of understanding veterans’ lifetime history of TBI to prevent future deaths by suicide, and support the implementation of screening initiatives for lifetime history of TBI among all individuals utilizing the VHA,” the authors said in a university news release.

Lisa Brenner, a professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, led the study.

Her team said the findings also show the need for more research regarding gun safety among those with moderate to severe TBI.

The study was published recently in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on traumatic brain injury.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: September 2019

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Suicide Becoming All Too Common in U.S.

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Sept. 6, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Suicide continues to become more common in the United States, with rural areas hit hardest by this ongoing crisis of despair, a new study reports.

Deprivation, isolation and lack of access to mental health care all appear to be driving the crisis in rural America, said lead researcher Danielle Steelesmith. She’s a postdoctoral fellow at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.

“Rural suicide rates are higher than urban rates and tend to be increasing a little more rapidly,” Steelesmith said.

Suicide rates increased 41% between 1999 and 2016, from a median of 15 per 100,000 people to more than 21 per 100,000, county-by-county data show. Median means half had higher rates; half were lower.

Rural folks tend to be at higher risk than city dwellers, the researchers found.

Suicide rates were 22 per 100,000 in rural counties between 2014 and 2016, compared with about 18 per 100,000 in large metropolitan counties, the nationwide data revealed.

To figure out the difference between rural and urban areas, the researchers did a county-by-county analysis of factors that could be driving suicide rates.

“Deprivation” — a cluster of factors that includes low employment, poverty and lack of education — was closely related to increased rural suicide rates, the study authors said.

Steelesmith said poverty could be more entrenched and economic opportunities more limited in rural areas, leaving residents feeling helpless.

Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Dr. J. Michael Bostwick noted that the highest suicide rates found in the study occurred in the Mountain West, Appalachia and the Ozarks.

“The communities that are more likely to be suffering rurally are the ones that are still committed to mining or farming,” Bostwick said. “Information technology, alternative energy and automation may have bypassed rural communities in favor of metropolitan communities.”

Residents of rural America also appear to be more isolated, which increases suicide risk, the researchers noted.

And rural regions tend to have more social fragmentation, with more single-member households, unmarried residents and people drifting in and out of the area, according to the report.

Continued

These regions also have lower levels of social capital, a measure of the interconnectedness of people through churches, groups and organizations, Steelesmith said.

Both social fragmentation and lack of social capital were associated with higher suicide rates, the findings showed.

Rural residents struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts also are less able to get help, either because they aren’t insured or the area lacks mental health professionals.

These people face a “double whammy” of few therapists around, along with a lack of solid suicide-prevention training in the mental health professionals who are available, said Mitch Prinstein, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“If you actually do get lucky enough to get in the office of a trained mental health provider, they aren’t necessarily going to be trained in effective approaches for reducing suicide,” he said. “Right now, mental health treatment is much more available for folks in urban and suburban areas. It’s almost impossible to access in our most rural areas of the country.”

Expanding access to mental health services, possibly through telemedicine, could help reduce suicide rates in rural areas, Steelesmith suggested.

One factor that drove urban suicide rates but not rural was the number of gun shops in an area.

Firearms shops increase access to guns and make suicide more viable to troubled people, Bostwick said.

“Rural areas are saturated with firearms already, so gun shops don’t make a difference,” he said. “But when you open a gun shop in a part of a city that doesn’t have one, access is increased and rates go up.”

Prinstein and Bostwick differ in how they see America’s rising suicide rates.

“We really need to start talking about suicide like the public health crisis that it is, the same way we talk about flu shots in every drug store, and we talk about sexual risk being discussed in every school and community health clinic,” Prinstein said. “When the percentages are this high, this needs to be something that’s part of the public discourse in the same way we talk about sex and drugs.”

Continued

But Bostwick noted that rates are actually relatively low, with 21 suicides for every 100,000 people.

“I don’t mean to minimize the significance of any individual suicide, but it is still a pretty rare event,” he said.

Bostwick added that today’s suicide rates are similar to those in the early 1990s, and appear to be part of an up-and-down cycle taking place in the United States for at least the past century.

The new study was published online Sept. 6 in JAMA Network Open.

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Sources

SOURCES: Danielle Steelesmith, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow, Wexner Medical Center, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio; J. Michael Bostwick, M.D., psychiatrist, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; Mitch Prinstein, Ph.D., professor of psychology and neuroscience, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Sept. 6, 2019,JAMA Network Open, online

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Drug Overdoses, Suicide Are Risk for New Mothers: Study

TUESDAY, June 18, 2019 — Drug overdoses and suicide are common causes of death among women who die within a year of giving birth, a new study finds.

In fact, in the study based on data from California, these two causes accounted for nearly 20% of postpartum deaths from 2010 to 2012.

“These deaths are rare but devastating for families,” said study co-author Claire Margerison, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Michigan State University, in East Lansing. “We need to place more emphasis on prevention.”

For the study, Margerison and her colleagues analyzed more than 1 million medical records from California hospitals.

While maternal death rates during and after pregnancy are rising nationwide, California is below the national average. Even so, drug overdose was the second-leading cause of death among California women in the first year after giving birth. Suicide ranked seventh.

Suicide and fatal overdoses were more common among white and poor women, the study found.

The data aren’t sufficient to identify trends but could inform future studies, the researchers said. The findings, however, might be a sign of what’s occurring across the country.

Although maternal death rates have dropped in California because of efforts to improve care, mental health and drug abuse continue to affect many new mothers.

Some of these deaths might reflect stigmas that stop women from getting help for mental health and drug problems, the researchers suggested.

About 75% of those who died had visited an emergency department at least once after giving birth, so the ER might be a place where these problems can be identified and treatment begun, the study authors said.

The majority of these deaths happened in the second half of the year after birth, which indicates that women should stay connected with addiction and suicide prevention programs, Margerison said in a university news release.

“These deaths are likely just the tip of the iceberg in terms of substance use and mental distress,” she said. “We need to take the next steps to understand how to help women who experience these problems during and after pregnancy.”

The report was published online June 4 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

More information

To learn more about postpartum depression, visit the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: June 2019

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Maine Legalizes Assisted Suicide

FRIDAY, June 14, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Maine has become the eighth state to legalize medically assisted suicide.

“It is my hope that this law, while respecting the right to personal liberty, will be used sparingly,” Gov. Janet Mills, told the Associated Press.

Under the law, doctors can prescribe a lethal dose of a drug to terminally ill patients and it will not be legally a suicide.

The bill had failed to pass in a state referendum and also a number of times in the state Legislature. It finally passed by one vote in the House and a narrow margin in the Senate.

The new law was praised by Staci Fowler, who took on the fight for the law in honor of her friend Rebecca VanWormer, the AP reported.

VanWormer died of breast cancer in 2017 and had pressed for such a law for years before her death.

“This is what she wanted,” Fowler told the AP. “And now everybody has the option that she didn’t have.”

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Tinnitus May Drive Some to the Brink of Suicide

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 2, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Imagine a ringing in your ears so intense and unrelenting that you become desperate enough to try to kill yourself.

That is a reality for some — women in particular — who suffer from severe tinnitus, new research shows.

The survey of 72,000 Swedish adults found that 9% of women who suffered from severe tinnitus had attempted suicide, as had 5.5% of men.

After analyzing the data, European researchers found that the association between ringing ears and risk for attempted suicide was only significant for women.

“It is important to say that an increased risk of suicide attempts does not mean an increased risk in suicide events,” said lead researcher Christopher Cederroth, from the laboratory of experimental audiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Also, only an association and not a cause-and-effect link was observed.

Cederroth added that he isn’t aware of any completed suicides related to tinnitus.

“Our results reflect more the sex-specific psychological impact of tinnitus rather than a risk of committing suicide,” he said.

On the plus side, Cederroth said that the risk for suicide isn’t significant for people who have had their tinnitus treated.

“Medical attention by a specialist may help decrease tinnitus-related distress,” he said. “Even though there are currently no treatments to get rid of tinnitus, seeing a specialist may help decrease the distress and diminish the risk of suicide attempts.”

Dr. Darius Kohan, director of otology/neurotology at Lenox Hill Hospital and the Manhattan Eye Ear and Throat Hospital in New York City, reviewed the study. He said that although the cause of most tinnitus isn’t known, ways to help people cope with the condition are available.

“Tinnitus can be very severe and debilitating,” Kohan said, noting that it’s a very common condition, affecting about 20% of the population. He isn’t sure why the association between tinnitus and suicide risk appears more serious in women than men. Perhaps it’s just the way the study was done, he said.

“It’s old age and degeneration of the blood supply to the inner ear, plus hearing loss as the nerve cells die off,” said Kohan. In addition, stress, caffeine and aspirin can cause tinnitus, he said.

Continued

Treatment usually involves helping people cope with the condition, Kohan said. Treatments can include cutting out caffeine and aspirin and also taking supplements such as ginkgo biloba or B vitamins.

In addition, patients can use various devices to provide a background sound to mask the ringing in their ears. These can include white noise generators, an air conditioner, or even the TV, Kohan said. This can be especially effective at night when tinnitus can be at its worst.

Other treatments that may work are acupuncture and cognitive behavioral therapy, Kohan said. Patients can be taught to ignore the sound. Some patients may also need antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, he added.

Richard Tyler, an audiologist and professor in the department of communication sciences and disorders at the University of Iowa, said that most insurance doesn’t cover treatment for tinnitus.

“It certainly is true that many tinnitus sufferers have severe problems with thoughts and emotions, hearing, sleep and concentration,” Tyler said. “Unfortunately, there is no reimbursement to the hearing health care field for counseling and sound therapy. This is a major obstacle.”

The report was published online May 2 in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

SOURCES: Christopher Cederroth, Ph.D., laboratory of experimental audiology, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden; Darius Kohan, M.D., director, otology/neurotology, Lenox Hill Hospital and Manhattan Eye Ear and Throat Hospital, New York City; Richard Tyler, Ph.D., audiologist and professor, department of communication sciences and disorders, University of Iowa, Iowa City; May 2, 2019,JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, online

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Global Rate of Suicide Deaths Is on the Decline