“The recent suicide of a 9-year-old boy at Stewart’s Creek Elementary School here in the Dallas area has prompted me to write a blog entry on children and suicide. My prayers and condolences go out to the families left behind and my wish is this blog offers help, direction, and hope for children and parents of my community.” – Dr Kay Trotter
Childhood and Suicide
Because it’s so unthinkable that a child could intentionally take her or his own life, there’s a false sense that our youngest citizens are somehow immune from the risk of suicidal behaviors. We perpetuate the myth that childhood is carefree and joyful, absent of problems and stress.
The hard truth of the matter is, by the time they’re in third grade, children ages 8-9 have a thorough understanding of suicide, and younger children understand the concept of “killing oneself.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that children 12 and under are just as likely to be depressed as adults, and 25% to 50% of depressed people make at least one suicide attempt. The suicide rate for girls between the ages of 10 and 14 skyrocketed 75.9% in 2004, according to grim statistics released by the CDC.
Statistics also verify that children do act upon suicidal thoughts—BUT SUICIDE IS PREVENTABLE
Suicidal Behaviors in Children
It is much easier to believe that the suicidal thoughts or behavior by a child are trivial or are a ploy to get attention. However, childrens’ suicidal behaviors are rarely impulsive and their motives are interpersonal in nature. Some of the most common reasons children may engage in suicidal behaviors are: used as a coping mechanism, it may be attempt to gain control in their lives, or to provide relief or escape from unbearable pain.
Children who are contemplating suicide frequently give warning signs of their distress. Parents, teachers, and friends are in a key position to pick up on these signs and get help. Most important is to never take these warning signs lightly or promise to keep them secret. When all adults, students, and our communities are committed to making suicide prevention a priority—and are empowered to take the correct actions—we can help youngsters before they engage in behavior with irreversible consequences.
Warning Sings of Suicide
- Talking About Dying — any mention of dying, disappearing, jumping, shooting oneself, or other types of self-harm.
- Recent Loss — through death, divorce, separation, broken relationship, loss of job, money, status, self-confidence, self-esteem, loss of religious faith, loss of interest in friends, sex, hobbies, activities previously enjoyed
- Change in Personality — sad, withdrawn, irritable, anxious, tired, indecisive, apathetic
- Change in Behavior — can’t concentrate on school, work, routine tasks
- Change in Sleep Patterns — insomnia, often with early waking or oversleeping, nightmares
- Change in Eating Habits — loss of appetite and weight, or overeating
- Fear of losing control — going crazy, harming self or others
- Low self esteem — feeling worthless, shame, overwhelming guilt, self-hatred, “everyone would be better off without me”
- No hope for the future — believing things will never get better; that nothing will ever change
Other things to watch for—suicidal impulses, statements, plans; giving away favorite things; previous suicide attempts, substance abuse, making out wills, arranging for the care of pets, extravagant spending, agitation, hyperactivity, restlessness or lethargy.
Book for Parents
“Helping Your Child Cope with Depression and Suicidal Thoughts” by Tonia K. Shampoo and Philip G. Patros
“In my next post, I will be discussing teens suicide and suicide prevention”
If you would like Dr. Kay Trotter to come talk to your group or find out more about her counseling practice, you can contact her at: Kay@KayTrotter.com, 214-499-0396, or visit her web site http://www.KayTrotter.com.
Dr Trotter also post regularly in her FaceBook fan page http://www.facebook.com/DrKaySudekumTrotter.