Preventing Suicide in Children

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24, which underscores the importance of recognizing depression and warning signs in youth, CHOC Children’s chief psychologist says.

Among others, irritability, sadness, social withdrawal, and changes in sleep and appetite are indicators of depression, says Dr. Heather Huszti. Follow are warning signs that a child may be considering suicide:

  • Gives away possessions
  • Makes out a will
  • Threatens or plans suicide
  • Jokes about committing suicide
  • Sends despairing texts or posts online
  • Expresses feelings of failure or shame
  • Shows signs of major depression
  • Avoids friends
  • Engages in risky behaviors

A nationwide survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which found that more than a quarter of teens in grades 9 through 12 felt sad or hopeless every day for at least two weeks – a key sign of depression. Sixteen percent had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, about 13 percent reported creating a plan, and 8 percent said they had tried to take their own life within the previous year.

Dr. Huszti emphasizes that parents must teach children to speak up if they ever consider suicide – or if a friend expresses suicidal thoughts.

“Teach your kids that if someone tells your child they are considering killing themselves, that is serious and not something we keep a secret,” Dr. Huszti says. “You have to tell an adult immediately. Tell your parent or a teacher.”

Adults who become aware of another child’s suicidal thoughts should contact his or her parents. If this isn’t possible, inform the child’s school, Dr. Huszti advises.

Check out CHOC’s website for a comprehensive list of resources and hotlines. In addition, follows are other resources for children and families suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts:

Also, check out “KnowBullying,” a new and free mobile application created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in collaboration with StopBulling.gov.

The application provides parents, caretakers, educators and others with information and communication support to help prevent bullying and build resilience in children and teens.

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