Predisposing Life Events
A few examples of life events that can predispose a child to depression include an early family history of abuse by a parent; a negative life event such as the loss of a parent; childhood grief; and disturbed, hostile relationships in the family. Many other social problems and negative life events do not seem to cause suicidal behavior.
There are a number of social risk factors for depression in children. One social risk factor is the very nature of adolescence itself, with its desire to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Conflict or confusion about sexual orientation can be another factor in adolescent suicide. Also, characteristics such as perfectionism, impulsiveness, inhibition, and isolation can all lead to thoughts of suicide.
Ninety-five percent of young people who commit suicide have a mental disorder. These mental disorders usually include major depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism, drug dependence, and conduct disorder. However, most children with mental problems do not commit suicide.
"Contagion" is an expression that describes the phenomenon of young people identifying with others who have committed suicide. Some young people who are vulnerable may copy suicidal behavior. For example, friends of a cancer patient who has committed suicide could potentially be at a greater risk of committing suicide themselves -- and should be offered support and counseling.
The Availability of Deadly Weapons
A gun in the house can allow suicide to occur.
The diagnosis of cancer can cause an at-risk person to attempt suicide. When a person attempts suicide, there are usually other motivating events present, such as a mental disorder, other life stresses, an upsetting event such as a failure in school, or a life-threatening disease such as cancer.
Suicide prevention must include individual evaluation; referral to the correct health professionals; treatment with medications; and both individual counseling and family therapy.
The age of first onset of depression appears to play a role in its course. Children who first become depressed before puberty are at risk of some form of mental disorder in adulthood, while teenagers who first become depressed after puberty are most likely to experience another episode of depression.