The Reality of Suicide in Children and Young Adolescents
One thing that every human has in common is that we each have our own personal struggles that we work through everyday to overcome. The thing that separates us is our perspective on the life we are given and how we rise above any adversity we are faced with. Life is short and precious and should be valued as such. I do realize that this mentality is much easier said than done. Unfortunately in today’s society, children and young adolescents have become increasingly susceptible to fall as victims of their environments. As a result, children are prone to developing psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression, and other disorders. The culture of younger generations is highly influenced around social media and bullying. These outside factors call for the necessity of a strong support system between the family, friends, and academic life of a child. However, life doesn’t always unfold in favor of even the most innocent lives and often children suffer because of this. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in young children and adolescent.
One concept that some might not consider is that children and young adolescents can face the same battles that people who are less young have experienced. With this in mind, their mental or emotional state might be strained and their lacking of life experiences could have restricted them from building up resilience. What we experience during our childhood and young adolescent years is what shapes us into the adults we become, which is unique to each person. An article that was published in Psychology Today analyzes the different influences that have taken part in the epidemic of suicide throughout recent few years. It first mentions how children as young as 6 years old can understand the concept of someone ending their life (Kennedy-Moore, 2016). The idea that someone that young is familiar with an event as horrific as suicide is haunting. Most children commented that they had either heard adults talking about it or had seen something on TV regarding suicide. This highlights how vulnerable and impressionable children can be.
Additionally, a study conducted by Arielle Sheftall at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, who along with her team analyzed data on two different groups. These groups consisted of children ages 5-11, and young adolescents ages 12-14 who succumbed to suicide between 2003 and 2012. The study found that between both groups there was a higher percentage of suicide between males and that the most common method of suicide was either hanging, strangulation or suffocation. Both groups showed that deaths typically occurred at home and between the hours of noon and midnight. Another similarity that was examined more in depth was the connection between suicide in children and young adolescents and the percentage of them who had problems with family, friends, or school. Each of these categories showed a high percentage between above 65%, which directly correlates children or young adolescents were turning to suicide due partially to social issues home and abroad (Sheftall, 2016).
One of the vital components of what shapes us as humans is the environment we grow up in and the foundation our lineage sets for us. Suicide might be considered a sudden life-changing decision, but it most likely is not a first time thought. The support system of family and having a stable home is crucial for any child’s or young adolescent mental health. A study by Fu-Gong Lin *, Jing-Ding Lin, Yu-Hsin Hsieh, Chien-Yi Chang (2014) explored the concept of suicide ideation among students from different background in regards to family and school settings. The topic of ideation exemplifies any student who has exhibited self-destructive behavior or acts such as self- harming. A sequence of this consistent behavior is consequently linked to the act of suicide. When suicide ideation begins during childhood or young adolescence, that human being is then at risk for that type of behavior manifesting into the child’s mental state in a negative manner. A human’s mental health is something that is constantly developing, but during childhood is when one’s mental health is more likely to be influenced and affected for the worse. Developing a disorder such as depression or anxiety is done so through a gradual process of different experiences and influences. This study specifically found that a boy living in an environment with a family who was frequently having disputes and providing a toxic environment showed the highest rate of a child who would be at risk for suicide ideation. This study not only shows a interrelationship between the initial study, but also that troublesome family backgrounds also play an important role with affecting a child’s well being while already in a negative mental state. A child will thrive more in a harmonious family setting compared to one where a child not only observes strained family relationships but experiences them as well. (https://ac.els-cdn.com/S0891422214003485/1-s2.0-S0891422214003485-main.pdf?_tid=40368f03-d79c-4b46-8a0c-07e2a1a02636&acdnat=1543204309_b568867ddb0cd2aeaa8632c0ee0198b2)
For most children or young adolescents, their time is primarily spent between home and school. The culture within a school plays a major factor on the child’s mental health. A prominent figure that exists in all schools are teachers. These educators can be a source of mediation for any student who might be struggling in school in some way. Bullies might target someone specifically or randomly, but they almost always succeed in infiltrating the mind of someone who is vulnerable and innocent. Bullies can be considered driving forces in suicide ideation and self destructive behavior in their victims. The role of an education professional in a school setting is important in knowing when it is time to intervene and create a more civil environment. Children and young adolescents will naturally excel better under certain conditions and if given the proper tools. This theory can also apply to a child surroundings at home like discussed earlier in the paper. In the scenario of a child being bullied, the teacher has two lives that they can impact. The child being bullied and the child carrying out the bullying. Although bullying is not justified under any circumstances, a perspective to consider is that a bully might often be facing many struggles of their own causing them to lash out. A article written by Victoria Ross, Kairi Kõlves & Diego De Leo explored the idea that teachers have a purpose to educate in more ways than just in academics. The article also mentions evident facts such as children spending a majority of their time in a school setting, which makes these institutions the proper place to instill different suicide prevention resources.
One of the key elements that take part in offering these resources of support are teachers, which the article mentions should be deemed as “gatekeepers” who have the ability to heed warning signs in behavior of children and act as a lifeline that a child might not otherwise have. Two separate studies were mentioned was reference that revealed the different sentiment some teachers felt compared to other in their role of suicide prevention in schools. The results revealed two different standpoints on the matter. One group of teachers took precedence in their role as gatekeepers and felt it was their responsibility to assist in this manner, which also gave them a sense of fulfillment. Another group of teachers felt they were not equipped with the proper skills to take on such a grave responsibility. The study conducted in the article aimed to receive insight on what teachers felt was necessary to aid in suicide prevention in school settings and on a global scale. The data revealed that there was a trend in the opinions of the teachers who participated in the study. These trends included awareness and stigma reduction, the need for suicide prevention education and training, and the need for improved support services for students. The less commonly mentioned but equally as important concerns were bullying and how social media influences the young and upcoming generations. It can be concluded from this study that every teacher would agree that more anti-Bullying policies should be put in place. School officials should have less tolerance for any incidence of bullying regardless of how small it is. Suicide prevention programs are also impactful in reducing the stigma against suicide in children and advocating for a child who might not be able to on their own. https://www-tandfonline-com.proxy.library.csi.cuny.edu/doi/pdf/10.1080/13811118.2016.1227005?needAccess=true
Furthermore, some different variables or risk factors to consider as precursors to suicide are environmental conditions such as the ones discussed earlier as well as genetic influences, which show that different behavioral traits can be passed down from genes in family members into younger generations. A common precursor or risk factor that increases the chances of suicide in children and adolescents is preexisting mental disorders such as anxiety or depression. This means that if a child develops any of this disorders they might be predisposed to suicidal ideation or behavior. There was a study that supported this concept that was carried out by https://ac.els-cdn.com/S0022395617306258/1-s2.0-S0022395617306258-main.pdf?_tid=3acc9bba-25a9-4a1c-b384-2dea5e13a14c&acdnat=1543421313_e9ecd1b24c09f159f8a974bf50d320c5. The study observed children and young adolescents with bipolar disorder and the comorbidity of other sleep and depressive disorders. This comorbidity resulted in the increase of a child being at risk for suicide. The study mentions how 216 of the 379 children tested with bipolar disorder showed an increase for the chance of of becoming a victim to suicide.
It is the responsibility of a child’s family or educators in school to observe any self destructive tendencies. A child might display signs or symptoms that if caught in time can save their life. I believe all it takes is one person to touch the life of someone who is struggling in a bad place. It is during the stages of childhood and early adolescence where a senseless catastrophe such as suicide can be prevented. Different preventative measures that have been used include cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, and programs aimed at educating the youth on the resources they have as well as educators and family on the support they can provide for anyone at risk.