Suicide (killing oneself on purpose) is very rare in young children. But it is the third most common cause of death in children from ages 10 to 19.
Children are most likely to consider suicide if they suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and alcohol or substance abuse. Stressful events can put kids over the edge. They are more likely to kill themselves on impulse than adults are. Many commit suicide within a few weeks of getting into trouble at school or with the police, breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, or fighting with friends.
Risk factors include:
Girls attempt suicide more often than boys do. But boys are much more likely to actually kill themselves. Girls are more likely to try to kill themselves by overdosing on drugs or cutting their wrists. Boys most often try to kill themselves using guns, hanging, or jumping.
Firearms are the most common and fastest-growing method of suicide for males and females of all ages in the US. Having a gun in the house increases the chances that a young person in that home will commit suicide. An upset child or teen may impulsively use a firearm. Using a gun increases the chances that a suicide attempt will be fatal. Other methods are more likely to allow time for second thoughts and getting medical help.
Signs that your child is considering suicide may include:
If you are concerned about your child's behavior:
Both medicines and therapy are useful to treat depression in children and adolescents. The only drug approved for use in children with major depressive disorder is fluoxetine (Prozac). Many parents are concerned about giving children antidepressants. Talk with your healthcare provider or mental health professional about this. Untreated depression can be fatal.
If your child is depressed, starting on a new antidepressant, or taking a different dose, be alert to any changes in behavior. Never take your child off an antidepressant suddenly without consulting with the prescriber. With some drugs you must taper off slowly to avoid physical and emotional symptoms.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) helps children learn about depression, along with teaching specific skills for managing their physical symptoms, negative thoughts, and problem behaviors.
If you think your child is suicidal, get help immediately. Talk with your child's healthcare provider or a mental health specialist. Your local mental health association or county medical society can provide references. In an emergency, call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-SUICIDE.