Updated: Nov 3
As the level of stress increases in a child’s life, the potential risk rises for depression and suicide. It is important to note, however, that this warning scale is only a general reference. Children respond to stress differently. Some children can handle high levels of stress without becoming depressed or suicidal. Other children may become depressed or suicidal when faced with low levels of stress. Generally, the higher the level of stress, the greater the risk of depression or suicide.
LEVEL ONE – A child experiencing a stress level of one is dealing with the “normal” stresses
of everyday life. Children usually do not have difficulty managing this level of stress.
LEVEL TWO – A child experiencing a stress level of two may be dealing with a minor
difficulty, such as going to camp or getting a low grade in school. This level of stress should
pose only a temporary problem for the child.
LEVEL THREE – A child experiencing a stress level of three may be having trouble dealing
with change, such as moving or starting a new school year. This level of stress may cause the
child to experience short-term depression.
LEVEL FOUR – A child experiencing a stress level of four may be facing an ongoing problem
or a difficult adjustment, such as chronic parental fighting or a break-up with a friend or
sweetheart. This level of stress can create depression.
LEVEL FIVE – A child experiencing a stress level of five may be confronting a major
adjustment, such as the separation or divorce of parents, death of a family member or best friend or being placed in the custody of law enforcement officials. This level of stress can cause
depression. Thoughts of suicide may occur, and suicide gesture or attempt is possible.
LEVEL SIX – A child experiencing a stress level of six may have been struggling with a major
adjustment for a long time, such as years of physical or sexual abuse. This level of stress often
results in depression. Suicide is very possible.
LEVEL SEVEN – A child experiencing a stress level of seven is in extreme pain. Examples of
this stress level can include multiple family deaths or fear of being killed. Long-term depression
is a definite probability. Suicide risk is high.*
*Adapted from our book, Depression and Suicide in Childhood and Adolescence