Canadian researchers find alarming rise in suicides among teen and pre-teen girls

A new study finds that while suicide rates among young Canadians has declined on average over almost three decades, albeit slowly, girls and young women are killing themselves at an increasing rate.

An article in the April 2 edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal noted suicide is the second leading cause of death for Canadians aged 10 to 19 years.

"Our results show that suicide rates in Canada are increasing among female children and adolescents and decreasing among male children and adolescents," authors Robin Skinner and Steven McFaull reported.

"Limiting access to lethal means has some potential to mitigate risk. However, suffocation, which has become the predominant method for committing suicide for these age groups, is not amenable to this type of primary prevention."

Suicide rates among girls aged 10 to 14 soared by 50 per cent from 1980 to 2008 but are still less than one per 100,000, according to the study, Postmedia News reported.

The rate nearly doubled for teenage girls aged 15 to 19, climbing to 6.2 per 100,000 from 3.7 in the same period.

Deaths from suffocation rose an average eight per cent in both age groups, according to the researchers' retrospective review of Statistics Canada data.

Suicide deaths of both boys and girls dropped by more than a third in the review period but the decline masked the rise in young female suicides.

Suffocation was the method of choice for girls, increasing every year, while deaths from poison or guns decreased.

Skinner, a senior epidemiologist at the Public Health Agency of Canada, pointed to a 2010 British study that was based on interviews with suicide-attempt survivors who thought hanging would bring a clean, rapid and painless death.

But the Canadian researchers also speculated a rise in the choking game - where kids strangle themselves to the point of blacking out to achieve an intoxicating high - could be responsible for some of the deaths statistically recorded as suicide.

The game can turn deadly, they said, "if the participant being choked is physiologically susceptible or if the pressure is not released quickly enough after the loss of consciousness," especially if it's being played alone.