Updated: Nov 3
Depression and suicide among children are growing social concerns. Many young people exhibit symptoms of chronic depression. Most of these children will overcome their problems and go on to lead happy lives. Others will attempt suicide. There is a link between depression and suicide. Depression is the “breeding ground” for suicide. Although the majority of depressed children are not suicidal, most suicidal children are depressed. Suicide results in the death of more children than cancer or heart disease. National statistics cite that about 10,000 boys and girls 18 years of age or younger take their own lives every year.
Children usually become depressed or suicidal when they experience overwhelming problems,
do not know how to cope with stress or feel alone in their struggles. Parents should consider
these facts and determine how they relate to their children.
Find ways to help children develop and maintain a positive self-image. Children who feel good about themselves are less likely to become depressed or suicidal.
Teach and encourage children to communicate openly and honestly. Children who can discuss their problems and concerns are less likely to suffer from trapped feelings and more likely to find solutions.
Teach children “healthy” ways to handle stress. Children, who learn that stress is a part of life, and develop healthy ways to deal with it, are better able to handle problems throughout their lives.
Allow children to help make personal and family decisions. Children that learn how to make decisions, and be responsible for them, are better equipped to deal with stress and other problems they must resolve.
Develop and maintain a stable home environment with healthy family relationships. Depression and suicide risk are highly associated with family problems.
Devote time and attention to each child so that he or she will feel like a special individual. Children who feel loved and cared for are less likely to become depressed or suicidal.
Be aware of sudden or dramatic emotional or behavioral changes in children. Children often express their frustrations through emotional outbursts or altered behavioral patterns.
Know each child’s friends and their behaviors. Children sometimes become depressed or suicidal as a response to what is happening within their peer group.
Set a good example for children in how you handle stress. Children tend to copy the behaviors of their parents and other significant adults.
Keep alcohol, drugs and medications, guns, knives and other potentially dangerous objects locked away from children. Some children attempt suicide as an impulsive response to depression or other problems.
Help children realize that death is permanent. Many children, especially those under age 12, believe that death is temporary and reversible.
Seek professional help if your child is depressed or suicidal. Therapy can uncover the cause of the problem, develop an approach to resolve it, help the child overcome her or his depression and reduce the risk of suicide.*
*Adapted from our book, Depression and Suicide in Childhood and Adolescence