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02-12 Suicide prevention in children

Posted in Mental Health

Suicide prevention in children

Dealing with suicide is heart-breaking enough when it involves adults, but child suicide is the kind of awful that forces most people to try to think about anything else.

Unfortunately, children do commit suicide.

The National Institute for Mental Health, reports 1 in 100,000 children aged between 10 and 15 dies by suicide each year; for youth aged between 15 and 19, the rate is 7 in 100,000. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged between 15 and 24.

Bad news, but suicide is preventable, and the symptoms that can lead a young person to consider the unthinkable can be detected and treated. Nobody wants to dwell on the subject of children and suicide, but confronting this issue is the first step toward treatment.

How to spot – and deal with – serious depression in children

People kill themselves for a variety of reasons. Suicide can result from substance abuse, untreated mental conditions such as major depressive disorder or schizophrenia, and decisions made impulsively.

Depressive disorders are different from normal periods of sadness and worry for one major reason: they don’t end. Everybody, young and old alike, goes through sad or miserable periods. Major depression, however, occurs over a prolonged period; the Anxiety and Depression Association of America states these periods last for more than two weeks and impact the child’s relationship with friends, family, daily activities and school life.

Some symptoms to look for are:

  • A depressed and/or irritable mood
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Frequent sadness and crying
  • Low energy
  • Withdrawal from friends
  • Refusing to go to school

The great lie depression tells to the people it affects is they’re alone and nobody else understands. This is wrong. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance reports 1 in 8 adolescents have clinical depression, along with 14.8 million adults in America. Medical professionals acknowledge depression as a legitimate disease, and it’s one that responds to treatment.

Sometimes, just speaking with someone who listens can be enough to keep depression at bay. Psychiatrists, counselors, social workers and others can help people with depression better understand and manage their moods. Methods like cognitive behavioral therapy can teach individuals new ways of looking at themselves and their lives.

Stronger cases of depression often require medicines. Antidepressants can help a great deal – in addition to therapy – but a person receiving these medications should talk to his or her doctor often.

One danger people with depression face is the risk of substance abuse. Self-medicating with alcohol and/or drugs is a terrible idea that will only make things worse. Not only will the mental causes driving depression – and potential suicide – go untreated, but addiction brings an entire spectrum of new problems on its own.

Finally, if anyone feels suicidal, or knows someone who does, the free, 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Severe depression, particularly when accompanied by substance abuse and/or self-harm, can benefit from professional treatment. The Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego Adolescent Program offers effective, research-backed therapy to boys and girls aged 12 to 17. We treat mental health, addiction and co-occurring conditions with treatment programs customized to patients’ individual needs. Our residential program is staffed with compassionate experts who are trained to work with adolescents and will be with them every step of the way. For more information, referrals and treatment options, please contact our 24/7 helpline.

About the Author

Brian Moore is a staff writer and graphic designer for the Sovereign Health Group. A 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics across Sovereign’s portfolio of marketing and content products. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which’s he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author and designer at

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