Is suicide common among children and young people?

Maureen Q. Russell, MPH, RN
Geriatric Medicine

Although "common" may not be the right term, suicide does happen among our children - some younger than 10. There have been occasional reports of suicidal thoughts expressed by even much younger children (noted at the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention Conference this month.) Recognizing children, adolescents and young adults with depression can be tricky sometimes. They don't always have the verbal skills to say in words what they feel, so emotions can express themselves as behaviors. They may be sullen and withdrawn, or hurtfully aggressive. But they all need us to step forward and speak for them; the support of an interdisciplinary team to provide whatever services are necessary to them - and their families. Whenever a family member is in this much pain, everybody suffers.

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner
In 2015, suicide was the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. Of every 100,000 young people in each age group, the following number died by suicide:
Children ages 10 to 14 - 1.98 per 100,000 Adolescents ages 15 to 19 - 9.76 per 100,000 Young adults ages 20 to 24 - 15.08 per 100,000
As in the general population, young people were much more likely to use firearms, suffocation, and poisoning than other methods of suicide, overall. However, while adolescents and young adults were more likely to use firearms than suffocation, children were dramatically more likely to use suffocation.
There were also gender differences in suicide among young people, as follows:
Over five times as many males as females ages 15 to 19 died by suicide
Almost five times as many males as females ages 20 to 24 died by suicide

This answer is based on source information from National Institute of Mental Health.
Joane Goodroe

The following was published by Health and Human Services:

A study indicates that young people who attempt suicide may do it at surprisingly young ages. University of Washington researcher James Mazza saw it in survey data on 883 18- or 19-year-olds who had attempted suicide. He says almost 40 percent said their first attempt was made before high school: "The earliest age was age 9, so that’s either third or fourth grade. And there’s a sharp increase at sixth grade, so that’s age 12. They continue to rise, with the peak being eighth to ninth grade.’’

Mazza says parents and kids need to talk about these things – and parents can check in on the kids’ moods, notably depression.

The study in the Journal of Adolescent Health was supported by the National Institutes of Health.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.