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Suicide and Children

Suicide is as rare among children and adolescents who have no other mental disorders as it is among adults. The adolescent often believes that his or her disease is outside the realm of control, and is in the hands of God or some other force. Refusing treatment is not a way of attempting suicide, but comes from his or her belief that fate, luck, or God determines life and death.
Within the general population, about 2,000 adolescents in the United States die by suicide each year. Suicide continually ranks as the second or third leading cause of death of persons between the ages of 15 and 34. Children are less prone to suicide before puberty due to immature reasoning capabilities that make planning and carrying out suicide difficult.
The suicide rate in young people has more than doubled during the period from 1956 to 1993. This increasing suicide rate has been blamed on the increase in adolescent alcohol abuse. Chronic and acute illnesses are not major causes of suicide in the young. The suicide rate for male adolescents is four times as high as the rate for females. The suicide rate for white adolescents is about twice as great as the rate for African Americans and Hispanics. 
Some suicide risk factors for the general population of children include:
  • Biologic factors
  • Predisposing life events
  • Social factors
  • Mental problems
  • Contagion
  • The availability of deadly weapons
  • Motivating events.
Biologic Factors
Biologic risk factors for depression can include a family history of mental problems such as depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism, drug dependence, and conduct disorders. Genetic predisposition to low levels of serotonin is associated with depression.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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