The number of suspected suicide attempts by poisoning among children rose sharply between 2015 and 2020, recent research suggests.


University of Virginia researchers conducted a study based on cases reported to the National Poison Data System as “suspected suicides” that involved both attempted suicides and deaths by suicide. They found a 26 percent increase in suspected suicides among children ages 6 through 19 during the study period.


The over-the-counter painkillers ibuprofen and acetaminophen were the two most common substances used in the suspected pediatric attempted suicide cases, researchers found, adding that the self-poisoning attempts resulted in 276 deaths and 14,916 cases of “major effects,” which may include long lasting symptoms such as disfigurement.

  • Suspected cases of suicide by self-poisoning reportedly rose from 75,248 in 2015 to 93,532 in 2020
  • Girls accounted for 77.9 percent of all cases during in 2020
  • All pediatric groups saw increases in suspected suicides, according to the study, but the largest jump occurred in children between the ages of 10 and 12 who saw an increase of more than 109 percent

“We need to be vigilant for the warning signs associated with suicide risk in our children,” Christopher Holstege, chief of the Division of Medical Toxicology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, said in a statement.