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3 Things to Keep in Mind About the Boy Who Died During Zoom Class

Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Responsible suicide reporting guidelines suggest not discussing the method. The Mighty’s editors have decided to discuss how the boy died in this article in order to provide additional resources. His family said his death was not a suicide.

Updated Dec. 4, 2020.

On Wednesday Adan Llanos, an 11-year-old sixth grader at Woodbridge Elementary School in California, died by a self-inflicted gunshot wound during a class on Zoom. According to the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, Llanos had his video and microphone turned off but his sister heard the gunshot from another room in the house. His sister called for help and Llanos was rushed to the hospital where he died.

“We are deeply saddened to share that a student from Woodbridge Elementary School passed away today,” Cathy Nichols-Washer, Ed.D., Lodi Unified School District’s superintendent said in a statement on Facebook. “Our thoughts are with the family affected by this terrible tragedy.”

While Llanos’ family has said his death was a “freak accident” and not suicide, it brought up reminders of suicide for many. If you’re a parent, you may also worry about your own child’s mental health. There is help for people who feel suicidal. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

In honor of Llanos, here are three things we’d like you to keep in mind about mental health and suicide among young people:

1. Know the Warning Signs for Kids

Kids can and do have suicidal thoughts, and it’s important to take them seriously. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10 and 24. The signs a child may be having suicidal thoughts are a little different for younger kids than teenagers. These signs can also be more subtle. Potential warning signs that indicate your child may be having suicidal thoughts can include:

  • Changes in sleep habits (either more or less sleep)
  • Changes in eating habits (overeating or loss of appetite)
  • Changes in mood, including irritability, aggression, “acting out” or anxiety
  • Isolation or withdrawal from friends and family (including in virtual settings)
  • Physical complaints like headaches, upset stomach or pain without an obvious cause
  • Changes in school performance or engagement (online or in-person)
  • Interest in death or dying, including talking about it and seeking out content
  • Expressions about hopelessness such as statements that nothing will get better
  • Giving away favorite possessions (don’t assume it’s “just” play or make-believe)
  • Depicting death or dying in their drawings or writing

Talk openly with your child about suicide, and be direct. You can use age-appropriate language like, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Validate your child’s emotions and struggles and talk to a mental health professional about next steps and support. If you’re unsure how to start a conversation with a loved one, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has a great guide to help you here.

If you’re having serious concerns about your child’s safety, ask for an emergency call with your child’s mental health provider or doctor. If that isn’t an option, call 911 or go to the emergency room. Lindsay Gerber, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist in the Mood Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute, previously told The Mighty that you can and should seek external help if you believe your child is in imminent danger.

“Whenever we think about hospitalization, the one thing that comes to mind is safety,” Gerber said. “If your child is doing something or saying something that you feel is a direct threat to their safety and/or the safety of someone else in your home, you may want to consider hospitalization.”

The Child Mind Institute offers additional guides to help parents recognize potential suicide warning signs:

2. Double Check Gun Safety Measures

You can minimize suicide risk in your household by practicing gun safety measures. Guns account for approximately half of all suicide deaths, according to AFSP. When we talk about gun safety and regulation, we also have to keep in mind almost two-thirds of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. are suicides.

Research suggests keeping guns secured and locked up — or temporarily removing them from the home — can help protect your loved ones. Limiting access to lethal means can give your loved one time to move through the intense period of suicidal ideation or time for others to intervene.

In addition to having an open and direct conversation about suicide with your children and loved ones, AFSP has provided additional gun safety resources. Make sure everyone in your family knows safe gun handling practices. Identify other people outside your home or in your community who can safely store guns during a crisis. And, invest in safe gun storage options like a lock box, cable lock or gun safe monitor. AFSP provides a list of some options here.

3. Mental Health Resources for Young People

If your child is struggling with their mental health (or you if you’re a young person reading this), know support is available. Here are several resources to support you, your child and the whole family.

If this news is hard for you, know you are not alone. There is help for people who feel suicidal. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

Header image via San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office/Facebook

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