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Young Children Are Not Immune to Suicide

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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.

It’s never too early to talk to children about suicide. Children really do talk about, think about and act on suicidal thoughts.

Imagine your fourth grade child: Weekends are filled with birthday parties and fun seasonal outings. Afternoons are filled with homework and sports. You love watching them laugh, grow and learn. Sometimes, getting ready for school is pure chaos, but you manage. They are learning how to write paragraphs and multiply three digit numbers in class. You are so proud. They are pure and innocent. They watch cartoons and cuddle with you. Sometimes, you have tickle fests. They are such a joy.

This young, beautiful creature knows nothing of the struggles of life, you think. They have an easy, carefree life. You might even wish your life was so carefree. But is their life so easy? The harsh reality is that one in 100,000 children ages 10 to 14 die by suicide each year. What? Wait? Not my child, not any child. They have no bills, they go to school and they play. This is not real… but sadly, it is.

There are 331,449,281 people in America, so that means we lose 3,314 children to suicide each year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death between ages 10 and 34.

Your next thought may be that children don’t understand suicide. While the level of understanding may vary, children comprehend death and suicide more than most adults perceive. Children between 5 and 9 see death as forever only for older adults and 10 year olds see death as irreversible. There have been other studies that show that depressed children aged 4 to 6 years old have a greater understanding of what it means to die than non-depressed peers.

The first time I tried to take my own life was in the 5th grade. I thought my life was too hard and this was the answer. My parents weren’t home to catch me.  Nothing happened expect my mom got mad at me. I think she thought I was trying to get high. She didn’t understand what was going on.

Was it my brain chemicals, demon possession, circumstances? Was I influenced by television, music, friends? Maybe it was a multifaceted situation. The good thing is that I didn’t die. There are children who did.

In 2010, 6-year-old Samantha Kuberski, died by suicide. It was found that she had previously made statements that she would kill herself. In 2020, 8-year-old, Gabriel Taye died by suicide after constant bullying. Hayden Hunstable , 12-years-old, was lost to suicide due to COVID-19 isolation. Gabriel and Hayden’s parents have now dedicated themselves to sharing their stories and helping to spread conversations on suicide awareness and prevention in children. Their message and mine is to be aware that suicidal thoughts can and do exist in children. The number one way to prevent suicide in children and any age group is to talk about it.

Warning signs may include saying they want to die, change in behavior, isolating and/or signs of depression. See full list of warning signs, risk factors, and protective factors by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention here.

What to do to: take threats seriously but without judgment and with compassion, seek professional help.

Prevention: There may not be any perceivable warnings signs; this is why prevention is important. Do not be afraid to directly ask questions and have conversations about suicide and suicide prevention.

Getty image by monkeybusinessimages

Originally published: October 12, 2021
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