Background: There are only a few recent studies on secular trends in child and adolescent suicides. We examine here trends in rates and methods of suicide among young people in Finland, where suicide rates at these ages are among the highest in the world.
Methods: The data, obtained from Statistics Finland, consisted of all suicides (n = 901) committed by persons under 18 years of age over the period 1969–2008. Gender-specific trends were analysed separately for the years 1969–1989 and 1990–2008 using 3-year moving averages. Trends in methods of suicide were examined from 1975 to 2008 in five-year periods.
Results: The male-to-female ratio in youth suicides was 3.6:1. The male rates increased in 1969–1989, while the rates among females were inconsistent. After 1990, the rates decreased for males but turned to an increase among females. Shooting was the most common suicide method among males throughout the period, while hanging exceeded poisoning as the most common method among females after 1990. All violent suicides decreased for males and increased for females in 1990–2008.
Conclusions: The increase in violent, i.e., more lethal, suicide methods among young females is alarming, as females are known to have higher rates of attempted suicide than males. Alcohol consumption, rates and treatment of depression and violent behaviour among adolescents are discussed as approaches towards explaining this phenomenon.