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Why Suicidal Teens Fill Your PED

February 13, 2017

Short Attention Span Summary

If I see another suicidal teenager…
Is your ED full of suicidal adolescents?  Does it seem like this has gotten worse?  That’s because it has.  The prevalence of major depressive episodes in adolescents has increased almost 3% from 2005 – 2014.  But there has not been a corresponding increase in mental health service capacity.  That’s why they are still sitting in your ED right now.

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Adolescent and young adult major depressive episodes are on the rise, yet there hasn’t been a compensatory increase in mental health service capacity.

A bigger question is why more teen depression is happening.  Time suggests it is even worse in girls, who more often face cyber-bullying.  This article suggests excessive exposure to social media (SM) is not making us or our teens happier.  I wonder if that’s because SM often portrays our lives in an unrealistically coiffed, curated way.  Real life is less glamorous and more messy.  I’m sure there are lots of other thoughts on the causes of rising teen despondency and much collective wisdom among the readers of EM Topics.  As a dad of several teens/young adults, I’m right in the middle of this and want to do what I can to help my kids through it – so please leave comments!


Pediatrics. 2016 Dec;138(6). pii: e20161878. Epub 2016 Nov 14.

National Trends in the Prevalence and Treatment of Depression in Adolescents and Young Adults.

Mojtabai R1,2, Olfson M3,4, Han B5.

Author information:

1Departments of Mental Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health, and rmojtab1@jhu.edu.

2Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.

3Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University.

4New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, New York; and.

5Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, Maryland.



This study examined national trends in 12-month prevalence of major depressive episodes (MDEs) in adolescents and young adults overall and in different sociodemographic groups, as well as trends in depression treatment between 2005 and 2014.


Data were drawn from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health for 2005 to 2014, which are annual cross-sectional surveys of the US general population. Participants included 172 495 adolescents aged 12 to 17 and 178 755 adults aged 18 to 25. Time trends in 12-month prevalence of MDEs were examined overall and in different subgroups, as were time trends in the use of treatment services.


The 12-month prevalence of MDEs increased from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.3% in 2014 in adolescents and from 8.8% to 9.6% in young adults (both P < .001). The increase was larger and statistically significant only in the age range of 12 to 20 years. The trends remained significant after adjustment for substance use disorders and sociodemographic factors. Mental health care contacts overall did not change over time; however, the use of specialty mental health providers increased in adolescents and young adults, and the use of prescription medications and inpatient hospitalizations increased in adolescents.


The prevalence of depression in adolescents and young adults has increased in recent years. In the context of little change in mental health treatments, trends in prevalence translate into a growing number of young people with untreated depression. The findings call for renewed efforts to expand service capacity to best meet the mental health care needs of this age group.

Copyright © 2016 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

PMID: 27940701 [PubMed – in process]

What are your thoughts?