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Child Suicides Are Rare - But Tragically Possible

CHILD  SUICIDES  ARE  RARE  - But Tragically Possible
children at play - Edited from AP Wire articles -

A 9-year-old with a toothy grin and a love for mechanical things, had apparently committed suicide in a restroom at his elementary school in Dallas.

Much of the shock comes from the rarity of such an act.

The number of suicides involving children, five to nine years old, are extreamly low —33 nationaly in the eight year period from 1999 through 2006, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  For children up to the age of 9, suicide isn’t even in the top ten causes of death.  The 10 to 14 age bracket ranks third and 15 to 24 is second for cause of death.

The 33 deaths of young children are the “completed suicides,” said Dr. Gregory Fritz, (Bradley Hospital - Rhode Island), but it’s difficult to know the number of attempted suicides. There are probably several hundred more attempts for children under 12 every day.     

Thirty years ago, professionals rejected the idea of child suicide. Cases that seem clear in retrospect were often described as “accidental.”   “It used to be thought that 5 to 9 year olds couldn’t be depressed, and that they didn’t have the capacity to think of time in the same way as adults, and thus perceive their lives as hopeless and filled with profound sadness,”  Fritz said.

Over the last few decades, a growing base of knowledge about the way kids think, and what they think about, has changed the way psychiatrists and psychologists consider child depression and suicide.

Children,  just like adults, have family relationships,  peer issues, and academic goals.  In addition, children tend to have high anxiousness of the unknown and the unfamiliar.  Anxiety, trauma, peer interaction and bipolar conditions become serious factors.  “Bullying is a big issue and hopelessness can be a risk factor,”  said Dr. Cynthia Pfeffer, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medical.  “The motivation that leads to suicide can be very different from child to child.”

“For some kids,”  said Dr. Fritz,  “It can be because they feel bad. They have a strong conscience and they feel guilty and worthless and they feel that they don’t deserve to be happy and to live. Sometimes they live in an environment where their pain isn’t recognized, or no one sees how unhappy they really are. For them suicide is a product of desperation.”

Fritz added, “I don’t think most children say ‘I wish I was dead’ or ‘I want to die’ at a young age, but if parents hear something like that, they should become concerned and worried.

The Intervention and Prevention Rule of Caution  is always  —no matter what age the person is, if they mention suicide, take it seriously.