chapter  7
8 Pages

Even the Children: Preventing Suicide Among Young People

I would very much like to believe that suicide is not a risk for young children. It would be comforting, I think, to tell myself this, because children understand death and suicide differently than adolescents or adults do, they cannot really engage in suicidal thinking or behavior. I could tell myself that children don’t even really know that suicide exists. I could tell myself these things: I would be wrong. Children think about, attempt, and die by suicide for reasons very similar to those of adults: to escape pain and distress that they find to be intolerable and believe to be interminable and inescapable (Goldman & Beardslee, 1999; Luby et al., 2003; Orbach, 1988; Pfeffer, 1986, 2000). Although the absolute numbers of children who die by suicide is small, more children die by suicide than from all childhood cancers combined (Masecar, 1999). At some stages of cognitive and emotional development and because of their lack of life experience, they may be more vulnerable than adults to believing that even relatively transient difficulties will never end or cannot be resolved. One Canadian researcher reminds us (chillingly) that if we don’t educate our children about suicide, television will do it for us (Mishara, 1998). Even before they begin to go to school, children are familiar with suicidal actions from watching cartoons-if not from

other media exposure, the conversations of adults, or family experience.