Suicide And Children
Barbados has recorded its share of child suicides in recent years.
In 2013, an 18 year old female took her life and that was followed by the apparent suicide of a 12-year-old boy in 2015. Less than a year later in February 2016, a 16 year-old-girl commited suicide while this year a 16-year-old boy did the same.
While the tragedy of a young person taking his or her own life is very difficult to deal with, parents, friends and the entire community are usually caught wondering how they could have missed the signs or even what they could have done to help the person.
It is therefore important that we try to undestand the signs that might be telling us that something is wrong so that we can help the child before he or she takes any drastic action.
(The video on the right is a true story: beaten by her father and bullied by her peers, a young girl was driven to self-harm. Now, as part of the healing journey, she shares her experiences with others to help them stand up against bullying
Young people with mental health problems - such as anxiety disorders and depression are at higher risk for suicidal thoughts.
Teenagers going through major challenges such as parents' divorce or separation, family financial difficulties, domestic violence, those facing the traumas of a rape, assault or abuse and victims of bullying are at greater risk of suicidal thoughts.
Factors that increase the risk of suicide among young people include:
a psychological disorder, especially depression, bipolar disorder, and alcohol and drug use
feelings of distress, irritability, or agitation
feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness that often accompany depression
a previous suicide attempt
a family history of depression or suicide
emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
lack of a support network, poor relationships with parents or peers, and feelings of social isolation
dealing with bisexuality or homosexuality in an unsupportive family or community or hostile school environment
Signs That A Child Might Be Thinking About Suicide
Earlier this year, the island grieved over the apparent suicide of a 12-year-old boy who apparently was facing several major conflicts at home. Such conflicts and stress from school, lack of friends, boyfriend/girlfriend problems, low self esteem and bullying are among reasons that children turn to suicide.
Young people with suicidal thoughts might:
Engage in conversations about suicide or death in general
give hints that they might not be around anymore
talk about feeling hopeless or feeling guiltyor even tired of life
withdraw from friends or family and lose interest in activites that they once enjoyed
write songs, poems, or letters about death, separation, and loss
start giving away treasured possessions to siblings or friends
have trouble concentrating or thinking clearly
experience changes in eating or sleeping habits
What Can Parents Do
Parents must listen carefully to what children are saying and especially if they become withdrawn and depressed. Some times children might even mention death or hurting themselves and it is ignored because it is taken as a sign that the child wants attention, but ignoring them at such times, can also result in them trying to harm themselves.
It is a must that you seek professional help for your child. You might want to take the child to see his/her doctor, a psychologist or professional trained counsellor.
Watch and Listen
Keep a close eye on a teen who is depressed and withdrawn. Understanding depression in teens is very important since it can look different from commonly held beliefs about depression. For example, it may take the form of problems with friends, grades, sleep, or being cranky and irritable rather than chronic sadness or crying.
It's important to try to keep the lines of communication open and express your concern, support, and love. If your teen confides in you, show that you take those concerns seriously. A fight with a friend might not seem like a big deal to you in the larger scheme of things, but for a teen it can feel immense and consuming. It's important not to minimize or discount what your teen is going through, as this can increase his or her sense of hopelessness.
If your teen doesn't feel comfortable talking with you, suggest a more neutral person, such as another relative, a clergy member, a coach, a school counselor, or your child's doctor.