In PreK-Corner, I share and offer discussions with you about issues that cover the journey children take from birth through school age and how this journey will affect them throughout their lives.
The Out of the Darkness Walk coverage written in September by Recorder staff writer Tyler Fenwick inspired me to share more about the importance of supporting and understanding suicide prevention. When we think of suicide prevention, young children are most often left out of the equation. Child psychologists have documented suicide among young children as early as the 1990s. Research that investigated suicide trends among elementary children in the United States from 1993-2015 revealed that almost 40% of children who attempt suicide make their first attempt in middle or even elementary school. Research also suggests that children who think they want to kill themselves are considering it long before previously assumed and at an earlier age as young as five years old.
A study conducted in 2015 by Jeffrey Bridge, an epidemiologist at the Research Institute Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, in a New York Times article said he was “shocked” by the results. He wrote in his author’s notes of the study that, historically, the rates of suicide among Black children has been lower than the rate among white children. Suicide previously ranked as the 14th cause of death among Black children ages 5 to 11 from 1993 to 1997, but it elevated to the ninth cause of death from 2008 to 2012. For comparison, among white children, suicide was ranked the 12th cause of death for the 5 to 11 age group from 1993 to 1997, but it dropped to the 11th cause of death from 2008 to 2012.
Child psychologists report 90% of young children who commit suicide may have a form of mental health disorder, usually major depression. Other findings from my examination of what experts perceive to be the cause of suicidal thoughts in children are that they are also likely to have been victims of sexual or physical abuse.
On the journey of life, children face many challenges. It may be hard to believe that children get depressed to the point of having thoughts of suicide. Young children’s perception of the world is very different from adolescents and adults due to their still-developing brains and inability to generate multiple solutions to problems. Some experts believe that young children do not realize the finality of suicide.
When I think about young children walking in darkness, having suicidal thoughts, I can’t help but think about the difference it would make for them to know that there is a God who loves them. Love has the power to bring adults, adolescents and young children out of darkness. There is nothing more powerful than the love of God and there is no problem God cannot fix. Children can be taught this truth at a very young age. Parental or guardian intervention of a child’s depression and suicidal thoughts can also help to reduce childhood suicide rates. Read my next column for how to spot childhood depression and suicidal behaviors.