At Risk Groups: Depression and Suicide

Depression and suicide are increasing in the adolescent population at a surprising rate. Understanding which populations are impacted the most can help educators in targeting responses.
38% of students felt sad or hopless, 24% thought about suicide and 13% attempted suicide

Every two years the CDC Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH) completes the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) which monitors six categories of health-related behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among youth and adults. From 1991 through 2017, the YRBSS has collected data from more than 4.4 million high school students in more than 1,900 separate surveys.

Their data show that while students drink less alcohol, smoke less tobacco, drive with their seatbelts on and in general take fewer risks, the rate of depression is increasing. The modern student is a digital native and is exposed to a wide range of pressures and images that can affect the student’s wellness. Over 38% of 9-12th-grade students said they felt sad or hopeless every day for two weeks or more to the extent that they did not pursue normal activities. Of those, 24% thought about suicide, and 13% actually attempted it (although a small percentage of those succeeded.


The CDC survey had numerous ways to split out the data by characteristics of the students. The difference between the male and female populations is large (note: survey did not include dat for non-binary genders), with girls suffering from sadness and hopelessness at twice the rate (46%) of boys (25%). This trend continues down to thinking about suicide and attempted suicide and was consistent across all parts of the country.

46% of femals felt sad or hopeless for 2 weeks or more verses 25% of males. 27% of females thought about suicide and 14% attempted suicide versus 15% thought about suicide and 9% attempted it for males


Students who are not heterosexual often suffer from greater bullying, dating violence, and other forms of harassment. This translates to higher rates of depressions and suicide, with a lesbian or female bisexual being three times as likely to be depressed as a heterosexual male.

56% of female lesbians or bisexuals and 45% of male homosexuals or bisexuals felt sad or hopeless versus 23% of heterosexual females and 19% of males

Suicide Mortality

While we have already shown that females are twice as likely as males to be depressed or attempt suicide*, the CDC Mortality statistics for 2017 showed that males are three times as likely to die from the suicide attempt. This is in large part due to the method selected. Females largely use strangulations and poisoning. Males primarily use guns.

Ratio of suicide mortality for 15 to 19 year olds, males die from suicide at three times the rate of males


As behaviors once deemed as risky decline within today’s students, newer challenges to their wellness are rising. Identifying which groups are at a higher risk for depression and suicide then tailoring countermeasures to address their individual needs will increase the likelihood of intervention.

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