It is a heartbreaking statistic: One child under the age of 13 committed suicide nearly every five days, on average, from 1999 to 2015.
That's according to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study released this month. It amounts to 1,309 deaths in that time period. The study shows the rate is rising.
Washington University Professor of Psychiatry, Dr. Joan Luby said suicide among pre-teens is still rare. She said suicide in children that young is related to both feelings of depression and worthlessness combined with children who have impulsive tendencies.
“People who have depression are at higher risk to have suicidal ideation or commit suicide,” Dr. Luby said.
Her team has studied the effect of early childhood depression on the developing brain for more than a decade now.
“We know do know that kids as young as age three can get clinical depression and we’ve followed those kids. We have a study sample of kids since they were age three and now into adolescence. They have relapses, reoccurrence, remission,” she said.
The team also studied how a parent-child relationship can serve as a form of treatment.
“We know that having harsh parenting tends to increase suicidal ideation. We know that exposure to violent media might increase suicidal ideation and bullying from peers might increase suicidal ideation so these are things that we’re looking into,” said Dr. Luby.
Dr. Luby said parents can play a huge role by simply watching out for key words. For example, children in distress sometimes say things like, “I wish I was dead,” or “I want to kill myself.”
"I think the main issue is you really have to listen to the child, you have to take that expression seriously as an expression of distress. You have to come in and try to understand what it is that is bothering the child. You have to help them to come up with more adaptive mechanisms for dealing with their distress,” she said.
Dr. Joan added that it also helps to be watchful. Make sure things that children can use to harm themselves are locked and put away.
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