The Mental Health Minute

Articles and news about mental health issues

When Children Commit Suicide

There is nothing sadder than dealing with a child suicide.  Having worked in a facility for children, I have personal knowledge about several attempted and a completed suicide by very young children.  The question always is, “Did the child really mean to kill themselves?”  Although a child’s ability to understand the finality of death is always questionable, these children are tormented and want to escape, just like adult suicide victims.  It really doesn’t matter if the torment is real or imagined.

In this article, this young girl states she is going to kill herself and then does just that.  What is wrong with this picture?  Her parents are just as much victims as this young child.  When it comes to mental illness and children, no one wants to think about it much less talk about it.

Please read the part of the article I have posted here and click the link to go to the original site to read the second page.  These are not extreme stories.  These are sad stories, but there are many more just like these out in the world.  We have got to do something to help our children.

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by Sara Reistad-Long

Though the death of a 6-year-old girl in Oregon was ruled a suicide by a state medical examiner on Tuesday, questions remain around her actual intent. After Samantha Kuberski, a first-grader, was sent to her room following a disagreement with her mother in December, she tied a belt onto a bar of an unused crib and hanged herself. But police are still not sure that the girl realized she was taking her own life. Sara-Reistad Long on the controversy over diagnosing and medicating depressed children.

Can a 6-year-old commit suicide? That’s the question police are asking after Samantha Kuberski was found hanging from a crib, a belt carefully tied around her neck and tethered to the bars. Samantha’s family says that following a fight with her mother, the young girl announced she was going to kill herself before she was sent to her room, where she apparently did just that. But local police aren’t so sure. “It’s not that we disagree with the mechanics of what happened,” said McMinnville, Oregon police Capt. Dennis Marks. “It’s the finding that a 6-year-old could form that kind of intent.”

But it’s not unheard of for children that young to be treated for depression just like adults are—and parents of depressed children say that sometimes drugs are necessary to prevent incidents like the one in Oregon.

Carissa Morgan’s 11-year-old son, Dylan, has been on antidepressants since the age of 6, and in that time, she’s heard all the accusations. “I think it’s just so easy for somebody who’s not dealing with a mental-health disease to throw stones,” Morgan says. “From every perspective—financial to emotional—this is pretty much a last resort. Believe me, I’d love the luxury to say, ‘I’m choosing meds because we’re all too busy to deal. The pressure of gymnastics, math, plus viola lessons just got too much.’ But, oh my God.”

Preschoolers comprise the fastest growing psychiatric-drug-using demographic in the United States.        

Extreme as putting a child on antidepressants may sound, according to new research, parents like Morgan may have science on their side. Some experts now believe that chronic depression can affect children as young as 3 years old. The groundbreaking study, published this month in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, found that an astonishing 40 percent of depressed 3- to 6-year-olds remained so over the course of two years, an eternity on a child’s clock.

The response to the study has been swift and largely hostile. “It’s ridiculous, the kinds of feedback we’re getting,” says lead author Joan Lubin, a professor of psychiatry at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “People immediately assume that we’re pushing some kind of preschooler Prozac thing.” Far from hawking snack-time sedatives, Lubin says her study’s actual aim is to help parents identify when and how to make behavioral adjustments within their family to best support a depressed child.

What’s happened, however, is that Lubin’s findings have shed light on a truly jaw-dropping statistic: Preschoolers comprise the fastest growing psychiatric-drug-using demographic in the United States. Indeed, as many as three in 1,000 children age 6 and under are taking some kind of mental-health medication. And it’s not just Ritalin. Prozac and Zoloft are close behind—research now shows that their usage among preschoolers has more than doubled in recent years.

Even in adults, the effects of antidepressants are poorly understood, and virtually nothing is known about the way they work in children. Moreover, controlled clinical studies have never been performed on minors. As a result, no medication is actually FDA approved to treat depression for the pre-K set. (Or, for that matter, young children at all. Prozac, uniquely, can be prescribed to patients age 8 and up, but that’s it.)

But children are being prescribed such pills anyway. Evan Perry was one such child, having been prescribed antidepressants from the time he was 7 years old, not long after he’d climbed onto his school’s rooftop in what appeared to be a serious suicide attempt. Perry was the subject of a recent documentary made by his filmmaker parents, Boy Interrupted, which aired recently on HBO. At times heart-wrenching, the film chronicles Evan’s brief life and his struggles with both depression and psychiatric medication.

“I think the first dramatic turning point was one that didn’t even make it into the movie,” says Evan’s mother, Dana Perry, of her experience interviewing for preschools. “Not only did we not get in anywhere, we came away with a serious mental-health referral.”

Finish reading the article by clicking here

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April 9, 2010 - Posted by | Mental Health | , , , , ,

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