The suicide rate for teen girls is the highest it’s been in 40 years — Is social media to blame?

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The suicide rate for teen girls is the highest it’s been in 40 years — Is social media to blame?

According to new data released Thursday by Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates among 15- to 19-year-old girls doubled between 2007 and 2015, reaching a 40-year high.

That means for every 100,000 American girls in 2015, five committed suicide.

Additionally, the suicide rate among teen boys in the same age group and year range rose by more than 30 percent.

The analysis mirrors a rising national trend in suicide rates across all age groups, CDC suicide expert Thomas Simon told CNN.

So, what’s going on?

David Silverman/Getty Images

Experts such as Simon and Carl Tishler, adjunct associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at the Ohio State University, said there are a lot of possible factors.

Some factors include substance abuse, relationship conflicts, lack of emotional support, the stigma associated with mental health, exposure to violence or economic instability.

Tishler specifically cited the rise of the opioid epidemic as a possible factor.

“Some of the opiate or heroin overdoses in adolescents may be interpreted by emergency departments as suicides. There may be more Internet suicides,” Tishler told CNN.

What about social media?

While some public health studies have shown negative effects of social media on young people’s mental health and well-being, Simon said social media isn’t always negative.

“Social media can help increase connections between people, and it's an opportunity to correct myths about suicide and to allow people to access prevention resources and materials,” he told CNN.

Still, he acknowledges that cyberbullying can greatly impact vulnerable youth.

Additionally, cyberbullying in social media may negatively influence teenage girls more than boys, according to Emory University School of Medicine professor Dorian Lamis.

“Some research has suggested that the timing of puberty in girls is a contributing factor for the increased suicide rate,” Lamis told CNN. The hormonal, mental and physical changes associated with puberty may leave teen girls “vulnerable to depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders earlier on in life.”

“The message for parents, teachers, coaches and religious leaders is to not be afraid to talk to a young person when they are concerned,” Simon said.

Suicide rates in Georgia

According to AJC reporter Rhonda Cook, 20 kids and teens in Georgia have taken their own lives so far in 2017.

“The last time Georgia saw such high numbers of youth suicides was 2015 when 51 young people took their own lives. Typically, the number is closer to around 35,” Cook reported.

CDC data shows suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10- to 19-year-olds and for 15- to 17-year-olds.

If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, or if you are concerned for someone else, here are some helpful resources:

Call 1-800-273-8255

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