Young Children Are NOT Immune to Suicide: Protect them by Knowing This and Talking About It

4 minute read

Imagine your fourth grade child: Weekends are filled with birthday parties and fun seasonal outings. Afternoons are filled with homework and sports. You love watching them laugh, grow, and learn. Sometimes, getting ready for school is pure chaos, but you manage. They are learning how to write paragraphs and multiply three-digit numbers in class. You are so proud. They are pure and innocent. They watch cartoons and cuddle with you. Sometimes, you have tickle fests. They are such a joy.

This young, beautiful creature knows nothing of the struggles of life, you think. They have an easy, care free life. You might even wish your life was so carefree. But is their life so easy? The harsh reality is that 1 in 100,000 children ages 10 to 14 die by suicide each year. What? Wait? Not my child, not any child. They have no bills, they go to school, and they play. This is not real… but sadly, it is. There are 331,449,281 people in America, so that means we lose 3,314 children to suicide each year. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death between ages 10 and 34.

1 in 100,000 children ages 10 to 14 die by suicide each year

Your next thought may be that children don’t understand suicide. While the level of understanding may vary, children comprehend death and suicide more than most adults perceive. Children between 5 and 9 see death as forever for older adults and 10 year olds see death as irreversible. There have been other studies that show that depressed children aged 4 to 6 years old have a greater understanding of what it means to die than non-depressed peers.

The first time I tried to take my own life was in the 5th grade. I must have seen something on TV about overdosing on pills. I thought my life was too hard and this was the answer. I distinctly still remember looking for the pills that would make me sleep forever. My parents weren’t home to catch me digging for my poison. I opened their bedroom door, past the vanity from Singapore, bare feet walked on soft carpet to their forbidden bathroom. It had 2 swinging doors, turn the knob, click, open…walked in. There was a medicine cabinet above the sink. It had a thin mirror door that I slid open; the pills sat next to a small dental mirror. Gray pills, 2 blister packs. Pop, pop, pop and I walked back to my bedroom. Nothing happened except my mom got mad at me for taking her iron pills. I think she thought I was trying to get high. She didn’t understand what was going on.

Children comprehend death and suicide more than most adults perceive

Was it my brain chemicals, demon possession, circumstances? Was I influenced by television, music, friends? Maybe it was a multifaceted situation. The good thing is that they were iron pills. I may have got constipated but I didn’t die. There are children that did. In 2020, 8 year old, Gabriel Taye took his life.  His family shares his story and advocates for other children through the Gabriel Taye Foundation. Hayden Hunstable , 12 years old, was lost to suicide due to Covid-19 isolation. Gabriel and Hayden’s parents have now dedicated themselves to sharing their stories and helping to spread conversations on suicide awareness and prevention in children. Their message and mine is to be aware that suicidal thoughts can and do exist in children. The number one way to prevent suicide in children and any age group is to talk about it.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death between the ages of 10 and 34

Warning signs may include saying they want to die, change in behavior, isolating, and/or signs of depression. See full list of warning signs, risk factors, and protective factors by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention here.

What to do to: take threats seriously but without judgment and with compassion, seek professional help.

Prevention: There may not be any perceivable warning signs; this is why prevention is important. Do not be afraid to directly ask questions and have conversations about suicide and suicide prevention.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (en Espanol: 1888-628-9454, deaf and hard of hearing: dial 711, then 1-800-273-8255) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Leave a Reply