By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The New Jersey Poison Control Center is sounding alarm bells after finding that the rate of preteens in the state attempting suicide by overdosing on drugs is on a steady increase. This new report says 100 New Jersey children under the age of 13 have attempted suicide by intentional drug overdose since January 2018.

The majority of cases involved 12-year-olds, but some of the children were as young as 9.

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More than half of the preteens in New Jersey between the ages of 10 to 12 who went to emergency departments for mental health-related issues screened positive last year for suicide risk, and 7% with physical complaints were also at risk.

The headline from the state’s Poison Control Center says, “Alarming Trend in New Jersey: Preteen Suicide Attempts Increasing, Especially in Young Females.”

“Part of the challenge is that mental health still has a significant amount of stigma associated with it,” Dr. Purva Grover, of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, said. “People don’t want to talk about it. People don’t want to ‘label’ their child, and because of that, I think we seek care much later.”

Doctors say teens often go for emergency care with repeat complaints of stomach pain, or other physical ailments, and questioning reveals a mental health issue.

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The new report says the number of intentional overdose attempts in 2018 among preteens was 70, which is nearly double what it was in 2015. Experts say the numbers are low because New Jersey doesn’t require hospitals to report drug overdoses to the poison center.

Parents are being advised to watch for sudden and unexplained changes in behavior.

“If there are things you are seeing, which are not making any sense, or your child is behaving differently — he or she was an ‘A’ grade student and now is slipping, or just doesn’t care about things, or is not taking care of personal hygiene issues — there might be something going on,” Grover said.

Pennsylvania is also seeing an increase as calls to the Poison Control Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia about adolescents attempting suicide rose by nearly 50 percent recently.

Experts blame the suicide increase among teenagers mainly on social media and cyber bullying, and there was also a spike in 2017 after a Netflix series on teen suicide.

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If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text TALK to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. The Poison Control Hotline can be reached at 1-800-222-1222.

Stephanie Stahl