Using new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York Times reports that while more boys kill themselves than girls in the U.S., the recent increase in the suicide rate was significantly higher for girls than for boys—an alarming nine times higher. And while the total number of children dying from self-harm in the U.S. is relatively low—425 deaths in this age group in 2014—the rapid increase is tremendously concerning.
The current available research on suicide among adolescents is not prolific, but there is growing concern that cultural norms and perspectives, as well as the rise of social networking and the earlier-than-ever onset of puberty, are contributing to depression, self-harm and suicide, particularly among young adolescent girls. This concern is not limited to the United States. Around the world, adolescents face social norms—socially and culturally-driven expectations—about who and what girls and boys “should” and “shouldn’t” be. When girls and boys don’t feel they conform to these expectations, their mental health may suffer. And the more these adolescents engage with the rest of the world, through either traditional or social media, for example, the more likely they will be to believe that they just don’t fit “the norm.”