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Child and adolescent mortality rates are rising nationally, with Michigan following a similar trend

Doctor's stethoscope

The mortality rate for children and adolescents due to injuries has been rising since 2019, a national study found.

The study attributes these deaths to spikes in suicides, homicides, and overdoses among children and adolescents. CDC data show Michigan following a similar trend.

Researchers say worsening mental health and easy access to firearms are largely to blame.

"Firearm injuries are a preventable cause of death," said Dr. Patrick Carter, an emergency physician studying firearm injury prevention at the University of Michigan.

He stressed that prevention is key for long-term solutions.

"It really is about taking a holistic approach to solving this problem in a research and data-driven way," said Carter. "And we can do that without hitting the political third rail or talking about taking away people's guns."

Dr. Alyse Ley is a child adolescent psychiatrist. She said prevention starts with increasing mental health resources.

"There is approximately one child-adolescent psychiatrist for every 10-15,000 children. If we look at school psychologists, if we look at school social workers, if we look in any area — we need increased resources," said Ley.

Experts also say short-term solutions like educating people on firearm safety are important.

"We can't negate the fact that there is easy access to firearms, and we know that firearms play a significant role in both homicides and suicides," said Frank Straub, the director of the Center for Targeted Violence Prevention at the National Policing Institute.

Straub said that while he supports the Second Amendment, there needs to be more education on how to use and store guns safely.

Straub and Ley lead a pilot violence prevention program for at-risk youth and their families in Michigan.

"We need to act immediately and we need to act together," said Ley. "It can't just be a mental health thing, or a law enforcement thing, or a school thing. We need to work together in communities instead of in silos."

The program involves a collaboration between schools, health care providers, and law enforcement to provide mental health resources and social support networks for children and adolescents.

Priya Vijayakumar started her Newsroom Internship in January 2023. She is interested in science/health reporting and making the facts more accessible to all!
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