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Suicide Risk in Younger Children

Take it Seriously

While depression in preschoolers is not common, and suicide rates among younger children is not at a crisis level, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among elementary school-aged children. The class clown that nobody suspects of needing intervention could be at risk, and it could also be the kid who gets straight A’s.


Researchers at Washington University have studied early childhood depression since the late 1980s and in 2016, noted that brain scans showed that children who had been diagnosed with depression showed differences in the section of the brain that regulates emotions, compared to healthy brains.  Researchers also found that children as young as 3 or 4 have thought about suicide.


Very young children rarely act on suicidal thoughts. Separation anxiety and fears of monsters and darkness are normal and healthy at this age. Parents should watch for changes in behavior, particularly in children who have a family history of mental illness, in children who have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, or in children who have experienced trauma. When the typical fears of early childhood prevent children from participating in social and family activities, parents should seek help.


Warning signs of depression in childhood


• Decrease in enjoyment of activities and play

• Changes in sleep, appetite and energy level

• Excessive feelings of guilt when something goes wrong

• Ongoing sad or irritable mood

• Feeling hopeless about the future and bad about themselves (“I’m not good at anything”)

• Relationship problems with friends or family

“He would come home from camp and say he was ugly and stupid. 

In some of the bad rages he couldn’t control, he would say things like 

‘I wish I was never born, I hate my life, I wish I was dead,’

and we didn’t know how to handle it.”


Suicide Risk in 'Tweens and Adolescents

Depression in adolescents is often overlooked or excused as a way of getting attention. It is important to look for warning signs and to take them seriously. Listen to your child, believe what you are hearing, and get help if you notice:

A Change in Mood

Your normally happy kid is suddenly bored, not really interested in anything. Instead of hanging out with friends he or she is suddenly sullen and withdrawn. 


Cause for Concern

Withdrawing from friends, family, and favorite activities are a warning sign for depression.


Unexplained Illness

Headaches, stomach aches, just don't feel good, and yet your doctor can't find a problem.


Cause for Concern

Kids are more likely to express depression in physical ways than to be able to identify that depression is causing their physical response.


Changes in Learning

Your child's grades may suffer; your child may not be able to focus.


Cause for Concern

Depression impacts our ability to focus.


Changes in Sleep Patterns

Your child may sleep more or may be agitated and not be able to sleep.


Cause for Concern

Changes in sleep and eating patterns is a symptom of depression.


Risk Taking Behavior

Reckless behavior, such as smoking or using alcohol, or unexplained accidents.


Cause for Concern

Self-harm behavior can be your child's way of numbing emotional pain.

Introducing the Subject of Counseling 

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