Children as young as 9 attempting suicide: research

Silhouette of a boy

Silhouette of a boyCHILDREN as young as nine years old are attempting to kill themselves, according to a new U.S. study that probes depression and suicide in youths.

And nearly 40 per cent of those who attempted suicide first tried to kill themselves in elementary or middle school, according to the study published in the November edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health by researchers from the University of Washington.

The data was collected from an ongoing study that asked 883 participants, aged 18 to 19, to discuss their suicidal history. Out of 78 participants who said they have attempted suicide, 38 said they made a single attempt and 40 made multiple attempts.

Those who tried to kill themselves multiple times began their attempts as children.

“Multiple attempters were more likely to have made their first suicide attempt during elementary or middle school compared to single attempters,” said the study, titled: An Examination of the Validity of Retrospective Measures of Suicide Attempts in Youth.

Those who tried to kill themselves — especially those who made multiple attempts — reported significantly more depression than their peers. The authors suggest that with students trying to kill themselves at such young ages, suicide prevention programs should focus on elementary and middle school populations as well as high school populations.

The youngest age of a reported suicide attempt in the sample was nine years old. Suicide attempt rates showed a sharp spike when the participants were around 12 years old.

Twice as many girls as boys in the study tried to kill themselves.

“We can say that there is tremendous stress on being a teenager these days or even younger people because of the Internet and the fast pace of society and all sorts of things happening around them with the social interaction,” said Grant Wilson, director of Canadian Children’s Rights Council.

Youth suicide has been prominent in Canadian headlines this fall after the deaths of Mitchell Wilson, 11, and Jamie Hubley, 15, — both of whom were bullied into killing themselves, their families say.

On Sept. 5, the day before his first day of sixth grade, Wilson took his own life by wrapping a plastic bag over his head, secured by a dog leash.

His father, Craig, found him dead the following morning.

The Pickering, Ont. boy suffered from muscular dystrophy and his family believed he committed suicide so he wouldn’t have to testify in court against a boy accused of bullying him and mugging him.

Hubley, the son of Ottawa city Coun. Allan Hubley, took his own life in October after detailing his struggles with depression in his blog.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24. According to Statistics Canada, 25 people in Canada aged 10 to 14 committed suicide in 2008.

Sonia Pahwa, manager of counselling services for Kids Help Phone, said many callers who have discussed suicide experienced bullying or other problems such as abuse or problems at home. However, the experience of bullying — both in person and online — is being cited more often by callers, she said.

“There are no borders or timeline borders (with bullying),” said Pahwa. Postmedia News

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