Why Is Teen Suicide Up?

Over on Twitter, I was in a conversation that mentioned the notion that Facebook (or social media in general) has contributed to a rise in teen suicide. This got me curious about what the teen suicide rate really is. Here are the numbers from the CDC:

For both boys and girls, the teen suicide rate has increased steadily since 2007, which makes social media a plausible cause at first glance. However, among boys this means only that the teen suicide rate has bounced back to its rough average over the past 40 years. Among girls, the rate is still quite low, but clearly higher than it’s ever been before.

It’s obviously bad news that the teen suicide rate is increasing, but the context of 40 years makes it a little less clear if we’re in the middle of an “epidemic” of teen suicide. Among teen boys, the suicide rate is now 25 percent lower than it is for middle-aged men, compared to 20 percent lower in 1999. Among teen girls, it’s 40 percent lower than it is for middle-aged women, compared to 50 percent lower in 1999. Put all this together, and it looks more like we have a general suicide problem, with nothing too special about teens compared to other age groups. This in turn suggests that we need to look for a more general cause, not one that’s specific to teens (or to other age groups, for that matter).

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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