This is the third article in this series on suicide in children. The first asked the question, “Do elementary age children seriously think about committing suicide?” The second was, “A call for help”.
In this article we separate the truths from the myths of suicide. It is important to truly understand all aspects of suicide in children so we can help them have a better life.
- A person who talks about suicide won’t actually follow through and do it
Truth: Most people who attempt or succeed have talked about it
- A person is threatening just to get attention
Truth: The person may need attention, you must act! Their need for attention may be desperate enough to proceed with plans for suicide.
- Kids don’t commit suicide
Truth: Even children as young as 5 or 6 have killed themselves
- Teens are most likely to commit suicide
Truth: The elderly are the most likely– however, children and teen suicide rates are rising
- A person on antidepressants is more likely to commit suicide
Truth: Depression left untreated remains the highest risk. The impact of antidepressants on suicide rates is controversial and competent. Professionals should always be involved in decisions on whether to use medication.
- A suicidal person always gives clues if others are just paying attention
Truth: Not everybody broadcasts intent or shows signs
- A promise to keep a note or letter unopened and unread should always be kept
Truth: This is a HIGH indicator for suicidal intent. Don’t make such a promise and probe why the person is making this request.
- A promise to keep suicidal intent secret should be kept
Truth: This is one promise that should NEVER be kept
- If I tell, the person will be mad at me
Truth: The person is often grateful later
- A person who survives a previous attempt is not likely to re-attempt
Truth: A previous attempt is an indicator of future attempts
- There is no way to stop a person intent on suicide
Truth: There are many things than can be done to stop a person, but all suicides cannot be prevented
- The only effective help is from a professional
Truth: Friends, relatives, teachers, ministers, neighbors, and co-workers can all be helpful
- More suicides occur during the winter
Truth: True for adults, not for children and teens
- Talking about suicide encourages attempts
Truth: Talking about it can prevent more than it can hurt
- Depression and self-destructive behavior are rare in young people
Truth: These are common in adolescents
- Suicide is painless
Truth: Attempts can be painful and if unsuccessful, can lead to lifelong disabilities
I pray this series on suicide has been helpful. For several years I served on the Suicide Prevention Task Force in OK under the Tulsa Youth Services. I learned while serving on that team that suicide is contagious. If you have one child successfully take their life, other are liable to try it also. I have also dealt with some children who were suicidal or who had suicidal thoughts. If you find yourself in this position, don’t hesitate to call in the experts. As you can surmise from reading this series, suicide is a serious matter in children.
The information presented in this article is for general information and should not be considered specific advice for any potential suicide situation. Always involve a church leader and/or mental health professional in the event you encounter a person or child who you believe might be considering suicide. Remember- you are not a mental health professional and should not attempt to diagnose or treat a person who is considering or discussing suicide. Get help quickly!
A personal thanks goes to Barbara Wright, LPC, CCPS for her contributions to this series on suicide in young children.
Barbara Wright’s contact information:
Licensed Professional Counselor Certified Child Development and Parenting Specialist
Norman Behavioral Health Group
3625 West Main Suite 100
Norman, OK 73072