Suicide in Young and Adolescent Children
The death of a child by suicide is a tragedy, having lasting and profound impacts on family, friends, and the larger community.
Suicidal thoughts or actions, even in very young children, are a sign of extreme distress and should not be ignored.
Suicide might not feel like a family-friendly dinner conversation topic, but perhaps it should be. Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 24, accounting for 14% of deaths in 10-19 year olds. Suicide does affect children and adolescents, and avoiding the topic won’t help them learn how to get help if they need it.
Knowing the often subtle warning signs plays a crucial role in prevention
Studies on suicide and suicidal ideation among children aged 5-11 are limited and tend to have small sample sizes, however one study published in Pediatrics compared characteristics and precipitating factors for suicide between the ages of 5 and 11 and early adolescents between 12 and 14 years old. Results indicated that children who died by suicide more often experienced relationship issues with family and friends (compared to relationship issues with boyfriends or girlfriends for adolescents.) Both groups were likely to suffer from mental health disorders. While adolescents were more likely to experience depression or dysthymia, children were more likely to experience attention deficit disorder, with or without hyperactivity Click to Read : The Tragedy of Child Suicide]
You can find out more about subtle warning signs in children here
Trust your gut, if you notice behavioural changes that aren’t a one off, take note and act.
Have you madeIt’s certainly not something most parents and carers would consider as essential, especially if we believe our children are content, so if not there are many ways you can raise awareness, from a post-it note on the fridge to adding Apps and contact numbers to mobile phones.
Following is a list of organisations, all of which are free and some available to help 24/7:
Helpline: 0800 1111
Childline is a free, private and confidential service for anyone under the age of 19 in the UK, where any subject matter can be discussed, big or small and is available both online and on the phone anytime. Visit their website: Childline | Childline for more detail, where you’ll find details on:
Information and advice on:
Helpline: 0800 068 4141
Text: 07880 039967
Papyrus provide confidential help, advice and support to young people under the age of 35 struggling with thoughts of suicide, and anyone worried about a young person, through their helpline: HOPELINEUK.
Text YM to 85258
Young Minds Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and you need urgent help text YM to 85258 – all texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors.
Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.
You can find an A-Z list of guides, all of which give details of where you can get help, including behaviours, mental health conditions and life events here
Young Minds also offer services to parents and carers who are concerned about their child’s mental health, up to the age of 25, via a helpline, webchat and email service: .
Helpline: 116 123
Samaritans offer a free helpline, at any time of the day or night. If you’re in distress and need support call 116 123, where you’ll find a Samaritan that will face it with you, whatever you’re going through.
Samaritans also supports schools, college communities and other youth settings through their ‘postvention’ services, lesson plans and school talks. More details can be found here: In schools | Samaritans
In addition to the services provided, an important part of their work is understanding and challenging the social elements that impact suicide. If you would like to offer support, from volunteering to purchasing merchandise you can find out more here
Every day, the Samaritans respond to around 10,000 calls for help
to improve emotional wellbeing, which in
turn helps children cope with challenges for a brighter future
They provide support in schools through 1:1 and group counselling, using
tried and tested methods backed by research, along with expert training and professional qualifications.
Helpline: 0808 808 4994 (7 days a week, 4pm to 11pm)
Text THEMIX to 85258 (24/7)
The Mix is the UK’s leading digital youth charity offering free, confidential information and support for under 25s, helping over 2.5 million young people in the UK each year. The Mix connects young people to experts and their peers to talk about anything they’re going through, from mental health to money, from homelessness to finding a job, from break-ups to drugs. They offer just-in-time, life-saving support for young people when they have nowhere else to turn. You can talk via an online community, on social or through a free, confidential helpline or counselling service
Harvard Medical School
Harvard Medical School recently published a paper on how outside play is extremely important for a child’s executive function, i.e. skills that help plan, prioritise, troubleshoot, multitask and negotiate.
“Creativity falls in here too and using our imagination to problem-solve and entertain ourselves is mostly done during unstructured time outside, where being forced to make up games, puzzle solve and amuse themselves and being outside gives more of an opportunity to practice these important life skills.” read more…..
You will find this and more publications on their website Harvard Health
The Importance of Getting Kids Outside
We all know that diet and fresh air are crucial to a healthy mind-set and playing outside is an important part of developing that mental state. Simple play allows children the chance to use their creativity, to expand on what they see and practice the necessary skills to allow their imagination to grow. It gives them an outlet for experimentation, and by playing simple games it helps them learn how to interact and communicate with others, without feeling overwhelmed or unable to grasp an understanding.
For a more detailed look into the importance of imagination in a child’s development click here, where you’ll find 6 reasons why to get your kids outside!
The most important thing you do today may be nothing at all, so relax and take a look at how you can do nothing with your children : The Benefits of Unstructured Play
Nutritional Health and Food Mood
What your children eat and drink is incredibly important to both a healthy body and healthy brain development and can affect their physical and mental wellbeing for years to come. Their relationship with food is one to be mindful of, as an unhealthy relationship can be the early signs of stress, anxiety, depression or just general un-wellness.
Eating habits are formed in the first few years of life and trying to ignore a child’s ‘fussiness‘ can be extremely difficult. Offering a nutritious, balanced diet, along with plenty of water (which is great for concentration) will help form healthy eating habits in later years and here you can find ideas on developing those habits: NHS guidance on Food Mood and Health
- Don’t label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’
- Avoid using food as a reward
- Set a good example
- Try to eat meals together when possible.
Coping with Stress
We all know that exercise, relaxation, eating healthy and sleep are vital for lowering stress levels in school children and an important part of a stress management plan. However there are many other factors linked to reducing stress and the Samaritans : Here to listen have produced guides which cover topics from the development of listening skills to expressing feelings and learning about the signs of depression, along with details of where to go for help outside of school and the home.
Here are links to some of the most utilised materials on the Samaritans website: My support network | Ups and downs of the day | Positive thinking | Listening skills | Talking helps | Expressing feelings | Building resilience | Aggression | Let it out | Managing Stress and Making Choices
The Importance of Friendships
Friendships create a sense of belonging and security for children and is known to help reduce stress. Early years psychologists found that childhood friendships contribute to their quality of life, and the ability to adjust to changes within their environment easier.
The benefits of childhood friendships
There are a great many benefits to be gained from forming and maintaining childhood friendships and here are just a few:
- Navigating friendships helps to support children’s emotional and social development
- Friendships help to increase a child’s capacity for empathy and altruism
- Having friends boosts happiness, well-being and self-confidence, and promotes a positive outlook on life
- Having friends lessens stress
- Forming friendships entails practising communication skills
- Positive friendships can help encourage good behaviour
FirstDiscoverers is packed full of ideas and guidance on the benefits of childhood friendships so take a look at How to Support