CHILD SUICIDE: Understanding the Signs

By “The Social Worker”

Suicide in children has become much more common recently. When a child or teenager is suicidal he/she is considering taking or planning to take his/her life.

In most cases young people who consider or attempt suicide do not really want to die. A suicide attempt is a ‘cry for help’ from a child who doesn’t know where to turn for help.

HOW COMMON IS YOUTH SUICIDE?

These statistics were obtained from ‘Fast Facts about Teen Suicide in South Africa’.

Suicide is:

–          The third leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds nationwide.

–          It is the fourth leading cause of death in 10- 14 year olds. About 1% of children who try to kill themselves actually die of suicide in the first attempt. On the other hand, of those who have tried to kill themselves repeatedly, 4% succeed.

–          Suicide is contemplated by up to 25% of children and adolescents at some point in their lives.

According to Professor Schlebusch in KwaZulu-Natal, young adults with a positive diagnosis of HIV/AIDS show a disturbing rise in suicidal behaviour.

WHAT CAUSES CHILDREN TO ATTEMPT SUICIDE?

Adolescence is usually a very challenging time. It is fraught with many challenges, from normal changes and peer pressure to tempestuous personal relationships, increased academic demands and possible conflict with family members at home.

Suicide is especially a significant risk for young people who are experiencing one of the following:

–          A mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder- about 22% of depressed children will try suicide. Almost 90% of children and adolescents who attempt suicide have psychiatric disorders.

–          A problem with substance abuse

–          Impulsive, disruptive or aggressive behaviour.

–          A family history of suicide, mental health problems or substance abuse problems.

–          Easy access to a firearm in the home.

–          Social isolation ( especially relating to gender/ and disability issues)

WHAT ARE THE WARNING SIGNS THAT A CHILD MAY BE PLANNING TO KILL HIMSELF?

Any of the following behaviour can be construed as a warning that your child is planning a suicide attempt.

–          Saying things like, “I want to kill myself”, “I want to die” or “I just want to disappear/sleep forever”.

–          Making threats or statements like “Don’t worry. I won’t be a problem much longer” or, “ If anything happens to me, I just want you to know…”

–          Giving away or discarding favourite possessions.

–          Writing a will.

–          Writing or expressing apologies to loved ones for “all the things I’ve done” or “all the trouble I’ve caused”.

–          Obtaining, or attempting to obtain, a firearm, knife or rope.

–          Obtaining, or attempting to obtain, large quantities of medication.

–          Becoming suddenly cheerful or tranquil after an extended period of depression  this may indicate that the child has made a final plan to commit suicide, and so feels “at peace”).

WHICH CHILDREN ARE MORE LIKELY TO TALK ABOUT, RATHER THAN ACTULLY ATTEMPT SUICIDE?

Adolescent girls are more likely to tell somebody that they are feeling suicidal. Males under the age of 25 are most likely to complete the suicide.

WHICH TEENAGERS ARE AT RISK FOR SUICIDE?

–          Young people with mental health problems.

–          Teens going through major life changes like, parents divorcing, parental separation and those who are victims of bullying are at greater risk of suicide.

WHAT YOU CAN SAY TO YOUR CHILD THAT IS THINKING OF SUICIDE THAT WILL HELP.

–          You are not alone in this. I’m here for you. I care about what happens to you.

–          I understand you have a real illness and that’s what causes these thoughts and feelings.

–          You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.

–          I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.

–          When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold on for just one day, hour, minute- whatever you can manage.

–          You are important to me. Your life is important to me.

–          Tell me what I can do to help you.

–          I am here for you. We will get through this together.

WHAT YOU SHOULD AVOID SAYING

–          It’s all in your head

–          We all go through times like this.

–          You’ll be fine. Stop worrying.

–          Look on the brighter side of life.

–          You have so much to live for, why do you want to die?

–          I can’t do anything about your situation.

–          Just snap out of it. What’s your problem?

–          Stop acting crazy.

–          What’s wrong with you?

–          Shouldn’t you be better by now?

–          You have so much more than other children your age. Just be grateful.

 

AN ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE ON SUICIDE BY ASIYA BAKSH

In Islam suicide is considered to be haram (strictly prohibited).Despite the prohibition of suicide, it is widely acknowledged that a person with a mental illness who is not fully capable of making decisions is not held accountable for his/her actions. This suggests that although suicide is prohibited it should not be viewed without consideration. Most Muslim scholars attest that it is Allah alone who will judge the actions of each individual. However, without a mental illness, most scholars view suicide as a betrayal of one’s religion and faith in Allah. Islam’s strong opposition to suicide is considered a deterrent. Islam prevents suicide directly by prohibiting it and indirectly by addressing the root causes of suicide such as substance abuse, poverty and the mental and emotional well- being of the individual.

WHERE TO GET HELP?

If you learn that your child is thinking about suicide, get help immediately. Your doctor can refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist. You can also call

Suicide Anonymous at   0800567 567

Johannesburg Life Line  011 728 1347

National Crisis Line           086 1322 322

Islamic Care Line               011 378 8080

 

 

 

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