More children are dying by suicide. Researchers are asking why?

Samantha Kuberski hanged herself with a belt from a crib. She was 6.

Razy Sellars was 11 when he took his life. Gabriel Taye was 8. Jamel Myles was 9.

Suicide in elementary school-aged children remains rare: 53 children aged 11 and younger took their lives in 2016, the last year for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has data. But medical professionals and researchers have noted alarming increases in the last decade – deaths more than doubled from 2008 to 2016 – and rising numbers of young children visiting emergency rooms for suicidal thoughts and attempts.

“You hear of all these kids taking their lives, and you just don’t understand why it is,” says Christine Sellars, Razy’s grandmother. “I don’t know if it’s the changing times, the way kids are brought up today or the peer pressure.

“It’s just so sad.”

The reasons for the increases are unclear. Few researchers have examined suicide before age 10, so little is known about suicidal thinking and behavior in young children.

But as they look more closely, themes are beginning to emerge. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which can make impulsive youth still more impulsive, was a common characteristic found in a 2016 study by researchers from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. So were arguments or disagreements with family members and friends.

Unlike in suicides of adults, depression didn’t appear to be a major factor.

Many of the deaths followed episodes of bullying. Social media can amplify those attacks – and make them impossible to escape.


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