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HomeLocal NewsWhy are youth suicides increasing in NJ? Assemblywoman Dunn wants answers

Why are youth suicides increasing in NJ? Assemblywoman Dunn wants answers

MORRIS COUNTY — New Jersey’s youth suicide rate is lower than the nation’s, but it has unfortunately trended up over the last decade, Assemblywoman Aura Dunn said.

A new report required under legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Aura Dunn and cleared by an Assembly committee this week focuses on the causes contributing to the increase.

“To significantly reduce and hopefully eliminate youth suicides in New Jersey, legislators need to understand better why it is happening,” Dunn (R-Morris) said. “Do we need more mental health support in schools? Should pediatricians screen teens for suicide risk? How many children had increased suicidal thoughts while taking antidepressants? These are questions that I am hopeful this report will help answer so that we can reach kids sooner, get them the right help, and save lives.”

The bill (A3198) directs the state’s health commissioner to work with the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Human Services, and the New Jersey Youth Suicide Prevention Advisory Council to study the causes of youth suicide and associated risk factors like mental illness and substance abuse.

Ninety-four New Jersey youth ages 10 to 24 died by suicide in 2021, making it the second leading cause of death among that age range in the Garden State, Dunn said.

“Every year, thousands of young people end up needing emergency or inpatient care because of a suicide attempt, but oftentimes there are red flags like social isolation or increased anxiety before a person needs a crisis-level intervention,” Dunn said.

Of the youth who died by suicide in the state between 2017 and 2019, 70% were known to be struggling with mental health issues, problems at school, suicidal ideation, and more. Eleven percent disclosed their suicide intent to another person before acting, Dunn said.

Dunn said that after the study, the health commissioner will issue a report that includes recommendations for legislation or regulatory changes to address the causes.

“Recognizing who is at increased risk, the reason why, and the contributing causes will help create successful safety nets and prevention plans,” Dunn added. “Making sure parents are aware of the warning signs and all the available treatments, as well as their benefits and risks, is important, too.”

Dunn noted how the FDA started requiring a black box warning on the class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in 2004 to alert doctors that children and teens taking that type of drug might be prone to thoughts of suicide.

According to a mental health industry watchdog organization, 15,840 New Jersey children and teens between the ages of 0 and 17 in 2023 were prescribed antidepressants under Medicaid.

“New Jersey needs a bigger picture, which will be provided through this comprehensive report, to ensure the right programs and information are offered in the right places at the right times,” Dunn said.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the suicide rate among young people ages 10 to 24 increased 62% from 2007 through 2021.

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Frank L. Cahill
Frank L. Cahill
Publisher of Parsippany Focus since 1989 and Morris Focus since 2019, both covering a wide range of events. Mr. Cahill serves as the Executive Board Member of the Parsippany Area Chamber of Commerce, President of Kiwanis Club of Tri-Town and Chairman of Parsippany-Troy Hills Economic Development Advisory Board.
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