Psychology

Your guide to dealing with suicidal thoughts in children and adolescents

Written by Dana Peterson

We think they live in a pink world, devoid of complications, those beautiful little heads, with innocent smiles that almost fell out some of their milk teeth, can we imagine that they contain ideas about beyond unicorns and pink dolls and superhero struggles? What is frightening is that other dark thoughts may dwell in the minds of some children and adolescents, thoughts more frightening than the monsters under the bed, and may push them to end their lives at some point.

“My son suddenly left his toys and said to me, ‘Mom, sometimes when I’m sad or even bored I think I want to die,’ it terrified me, especially as I had some suicidal thoughts in my teens.” This is what Sara (a pseudonym), a mother of an eleven-year-old child, told Maidan, adding that she decided to take her son to a specialized doctor to ensure his safety.

While Sara’s child disclosed these ideas and his mother noticed her, some children do not tell their parents, or worse, their ideas are met with mockery and as dramatic exaggerations, and their parents do not notice them before it is too late. According to the United Nations media center, there is a suicide attempt every 40 seconds in the world. In the 2016 World Health Organization report, it was revealed that 62,000 adolescents died in that world as a result of self-harm, and the report ranked suicide as the third leading cause of death among adolescents aged 15 to 19 years. It is also possible that a number of deaths attributable to accidents, such as accidents involving cars and firearms, are actually suicides (1).

Suicidal behavior is defined as an act of self-harm that involves suicidal overtures with thoughts, plans, and possibly actual attempts to get out of life. It is clear that the crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States of America, emergency departments in hospitals witnessed between April and October 2020 a significant increase in the percentage of visits to children suffering from illness. of mental health problems.

Hospital emergency rooms have also reported an increase in the number of children and teens who committed suicide in 2020 compared to 2019, for example Marisol Cruz Romero, a psychologist at a hospital in Oakland, California, said that the number of children who engaged in suicide attempts in the fall of 2020 was double. issue in the fall of 2019.

It seems that the pandemic created a storm of pressure that overthrew the most vulnerable children who already suffer from underlying mental and psychological problems, which contributed to their lack of ability to adapt to pressures, especially in light of the disruption of the support they used to receive from schools, sports and other social activities that were disrupted due to Precautionary measures, to increase the layers of pressure they face.

On the other hand, the changes associated with the epidemic have contributed to the destabilization of many home environments, due to the loss of many fathers and mothers their jobs and the increase in domestic violence rates, not to mention the children who contracted the virus or lost a loved one during the previous period. And all of these are painful experiences with dire effects (2) that appear more clearly in countries that suffer from harsh political conditions or those that are waging the scourge of war.

In Syria, for example, the total number of child suicides in the Idlib region rose steadily during the last quarter of the year 2020 compared to the same period the previous year, according to a report published by the British “Save the Children” organization. The organization recorded 246 suicide cases, and 1,748 suicide attempts during this period, including at least 42 cases under the age of 15, while 18% of the cases were between 16 and 20 years old, which the report attributed to the tragic situation of Syrian children. In the combat zones, with the spread of poverty, lack of job opportunities, children dropping out of school, the spread of domestic violence and the increase in the cases of underage marriage (3). It is terrifying that this number increased by 86% in the first quarter of 2021, according to the report of the same organization (4).

Red light .. Who is the child at risk of suicide?

Is the danger limited to children and adolescents who are suffering under the scourge of war? Certainly not, but there is a clear link between suicide and mental disorders, especially depression, which makes a child or adolescent who has problems adapting to psychological pressures, such as rejection, academic failure, family problems, exposure to disasters, violence, abuse, or loss of loved ones and feelings. isolated, more vulnerable (5).

According to the World Health Organization, mental health conditions represent 16% of the global burden of disease and injury among people aged 10 to 19 years. But most of these cases are undetected and untreated, which makes suicide the fourth cause of death in people aged 15-19 years. Otherwise, the consequences of not taking care of adolescent mental health disorders extend to adulthood, which causes poor physical and mental health alike, and reduces suffering with mental and physical diseases in the future (6).

Although suicidal thoughts do not always lead to suicidal behavior, they are a risk factor, and often there is an underlying mental health disorder, or a particular tragic event, that triggers suicidal behavior. These events include losing a loved one, being bullied or humiliated at home or school, committing suicide at school or from friends, and even fearing the consequences of school failure.

You may think this last reason is trivial and less than leading to suicide, but your opinion might change if you knew that at least 9 high school students in Egypt committed suicide during the past few months after the results were announced. Some of these children and adolescents feel anger that they cannot stand or direct to the person to blame, which makes them direct it towards themselves as a message of objection or as a way to punish their family members for the pressures they have placed on them (7) (8).

In this regard, there are signs that you should pay close attention to if your child or one of the children around you appears, especially the child or teenager’s talk about suicide, or referring to it in any way, whether by drawing or writing, withdrawing from social contact and severe mood swings, as well as changing Eating and sleeping patterns, getting rid of belongings and things he cares about with no logical explanation, and finally, and most obviously, engaging in self-injurious behaviors, such as scratching the arms, burning the body with cigarettes, and others.

It’s not suicide… but it’s worse

In January of this year, the 10-year-old Italian girl, “Antonella”, became a victim of what was known as the suffocation challenge, or the blue scarf, when she closed the bathroom door and wrapped a leather belt around her neck and held her breath in the hope of reaching these wonderful feelings that I promised It has that game that I watched through the Tik Tok application (9).

This isn’t the first time a kid has fallen victim to a silly challenge, there are plenty of them, like Blue Whale, Momo, Cinnamon Challenge, Salt and Snow Challenge, Galindo Challenge and Ribbon Challenge. Fatal challenges spread on children’s phones and screens, we know nothing about before the news of their victims spread on social media platforms. Such cases are not suicide in the known sense, as the player does not initiate them for the purpose of getting rid of his life, but with the intention of obtaining excitement or challenging his peers, some of whom even practice these challenges live on the Internet.

There are signs that the child is engaging in one of these challenges, and you should be aware of them before it is too late, including: bruising, especially on the neck, an exaggerated desire for privacy most of the time, the presence of ropes or fabrics in the room, and traces of minor bleeding in the face or body without logical explanation or feeling dizzy after a long time the child is alone In all cases, the child should be made aware of the dangers of such electronic challenges.

How do we save our children?

Well, we may have scared you enough, and it’s time to catch your breath and look for solutions. The solution begins with the initiative to talk to your children and listen to them well, do not wait for them to come to talk to you, and do not ignore their problems or refuse to acknowledge them, remind them that you want to help them and that every problem has a solution. These discussions can reveal and identify their underlying problems, and give you a chance to step in to solve them before it’s too late.

On the other hand, do not ignore the child’s or adolescent’s suicide threats, and do not call it a teenage emotional drama, as these threats may carry within it a kind of last distress. But at the same time, be careful not to panic; Because this may scare the child from expressing his feelings without turning away from these thoughts. It may be difficult for parents to understand why their child is thinking of suicide. You may tell him, saying: You have toys, clothes, and all the luxuries and we love you, so what is your problem?! But remember that a person suffering from depression will not be able to set the record straight.

You can calmly ask more questions, ask him about his feelings and the difficulties he is facing, give him hope and suggest different ways to solve the problem. If the child is not comfortable sharing their thoughts with you, ask if there is someone else they would like to talk to, such as a family member or teacher. Children and teens usually put their trust in their peers and friends, so children and friends should be encouraged and made sure not to keep a secret that could lead to harm or death for a suicidal person.

If you notice suicidal tendencies in your child, it’s important to keep medications, sharp objects and firearms away if they are found in the home.
Encourage your child to break out of the isolation cycle and spend time with friends and family, and keep an eye on his or her activity on social media. Despite their benefits, you may make teens vulnerable to bullying, hurt or frustration by forming unrealistic views of other people’s lives.

Add to this an important tip, which is to help your teenage child eat healthy food, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep every day. If your teen is undergoing psychiatric treatment and is taking antidepressant medications, monitor their effect on him, as some antidepressants have uncommon side effects associated with suicidal thoughts. If they appear, contact your doctor.

If you notice suicidal tendencies in your child, it’s important to keep medications, sharp objects and firearms away if they are found in the home. The degree of severity of suicidal thoughts varies, sometimes they come in a wave, and if there is nothing to harm himself, the wave may end peacefully (10).

Finally, children or teens who feel suicidal need to see a psychiatrist or psychologist. Many countries provide special numbers that provide immediate assistance and advice 24 hours a day and provide access to specialists in facing this problem, you can contact them for help. It is important to find a therapist who is willing to work with both the teen and the parents.

Our children need to feel accepted, supported and heard, they need to feel that familial bond that alone can protect them from stress. Set aside family time to watch a movie, go for a walk, or do any activity that brings you together. In these times, your children will feel that you are here, and that their distress is heard.

In the end, there are no accurate official statistics about suicides in many Arab countries, as many families resort to documenting cases as a natural death for fear of societal stigma. This causes a major problem, which is that we do not realize the extent of the phenomenon from the ground up, and we treat it as It doesn’t even exist, so we may miss the opportunity to save many children.

Sources:

  1. World Health Organization: Adolescent mental health
  2. Child Psychiatrists Warn That The Pandemic May Be Driving Up Kids’ Suicide Risk
  3. NORTH WEST SYRIA: HIGH NUMBER OF SUICIDE ATTEMPTS AND DEATHS, WITH CHILDREN ACCOUNTING FOR ONE IN FIVE CASES
  4. Dramatic rise in child suicide attempts and deaths in northwest Syria
  5. suicide
  6. adolescent mental health
  7. Suicidal behavior in children and adolescents
  8. Non-suicidal self-harm in children and adolescents:
  9. Antonella died..the story of a new challenge on TikTok that prompts suicide .. What is the blackout challenge
  10. Teen Suicide: Things Parents Need to Know

About the author

Dana Peterson

I'm Dana Peterson, a freelance writer, serial blogger, self-published author of 7 books, and speaker who enjoys enlightening others about unknown and little-known facts.

I'm a mother of two kids, but I've also been a typographer, a film composer, a piano player, a singer in an all-girl rock band. I love writing on cruise ships, or late nights, but also at home in my sunny southern California garden.

Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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