A survey of about 900 teenagers, who tried to take their own lives, has found that almost 40 percent of them had their first attempt at suicide even before reaching high school.
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health and published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Some of the 18 and 19 years old children who were surveyed revealed that they had first attempted suicide as early as at the age of 9; i.e., when they were in their third or fourth grade. It increased sharply by the time they reached sixth grade and continue to rise, with the peak being at eighth to ninth grade.
James Mazza, a researcher at the University of Washington, who reviewed the survey said: "Parents and kids need to talk about these things". Parents should be more active participants in their kids' personal and social lives and check in on the kids' moods, notably depression.
In the U.S., suicide is the third most common cause of death in young people aged between 18 and24. As many as 25 suicides are attempted for each one that is completed. According to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A), about 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18, with girls more likely to experience depression than boys.
Depression in children often gets overlooked as parents confuse it with mood swings, typical during the adolescent years. But experts suggest that signs of depression in the youth are different from typical adult symptoms.
Refusal to go to school or recurrent complaints of feeling sick may not necessarily be alibis for avoiding school, but signs of depression. Children suffering from depression often cling to a parent or caregiver, or worry excessively that a parent may die.
Children with suicidal tendencies are likely to talk more about death or suicide, or glamorize it even in a joking manner. Dramatic changes in personality or behavior, sudden risk taking behaviors or giving away of sentimental possession could also indicate that a child may attempt suicide.
Youth who attempt suicide are particularly difficult to treat because they often leave treatment prematurely, and no specific interventions exist that reliably reduce suicidal thinking and behavior. However, proper medication along with specialized psychotherapy could help curb such tendencies.