Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24 in the United States. Many suicidal children and adolescents have depression alone or in conjunction with another mental illness like anxiety disorder, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder or child-onset schizophrenia.
It’s easy to think that your child’s depression may be a passing phase, or something that will go away. All children and teens have days when they may be sad or angry at the world. It’s when those feelings last more than a week or two, and interfere with daily functioning, that it might be time to seek professional help.
Changes in behavior, such as appetite changes, no longer enjoying activities they used to like, changes in sleeping patterns or always feeling tired — especially if they are related to a painful event, loss or change — may also be a sign of depression which could include suicidal tendencies.
“We often don’t imagine that children and teens could actually attempt to end their lives, but unfortunately, it can and does happen,” said Dr. Heather Huszti, chief psychologist at CHOC Children’s. “So often these children showed some type of warning signs ahead of time. Talking openly about mental health and suicide can save children’s lives.”
If your child tells you that they want to die or wish they weren’t alive – regardless of age – it’s important to get help immediately. Children who express interest in dying should be taken seriously, and not treated as if they are acting out for attention. Many children (even children younger than 10) and teens who threaten suicide will make a suicide attempt.
Most children who take their lives exhibit warning signs.
Saying things like:
Doing things like:
Mood changes, such as:
If your child is in immediate danger of self-harm, please call 911.
If you are worried your child might make a suicide attempt:
Assure your child that here is hope. Let your child know that there are people who can help, and that you will take immediate action to get those services. Don’t try to fix the problem. Get professional help.
Know that early intervention is the key to successful treatment.
It’s important if you are concerned that a child or teen may be suicidal to ask questions such as:
Asking your child or teen if they are suicidal will not cause them to become suicidal. It will open the dialogue and help you determine if your child needs help. Talking can save lives.
24/7 Suicide Prevention Lines
Suicide Prevention, Education and Support Groups:
CHOC Children’s, in partnership with committed organizations and community groups, aspires to create an outstanding mental health system of care for all children, teens and young adults in Orange County. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive approach to pediatric mental illness.
Gavyn Bailey, CHOC patient, talks about his struggles with depression and thoughts of suicide. Watch this inspiring video of Gavyn sharing how mental health treatment helped him.