AMITYVILLE, NY –Bullying and other factors may lead a child to feel overwhelmed or hopeless. Teachers and parents can feel the same way in dealing with a despondent youngster. So how can adults determine whether or not a child’s despondency might lead to suicidal thoughts or actions?
“When dealing with suicidal thoughts, it’s important to be direct,” explained Eugene Grudnikoff, MD, psychiatrist at South Oaks Hospital in Amityville. “Try not to ask, ‘you’re not thinking of harming yourself, are you?’ That question is vague and may have a tone that is not well received by the child. Instead, you can ask, ‘Are you thinking of dying, or even killing yourself?’”
Dr. Grudnikoff emphasized the importance of protective and risk factors in the assessment of suicidal thoughts or behaviors:
- Does the child have some resources including a supportive family, etc.? Youth with fewer resources are at higher risk for suicide.
- Is there a family history of depression or suicide? Those children with a family history are more likely to attempt suicide.
- Do their suicidal thoughts include specific details? That is a warning sign.
- How lethal is their attempt? Taking small dosages of over-the-counter medications suggests that they may be ambivalent about suicide, but still wanted to convey their tremendous distress.
Educators, parents and clinicians can lower a child’s stressors to make them less likely to attempt suicide, Dr. Grudnikoff said. Those stressors can include academic pressures, family conflicts, school anxiety and bullying.
For more information about suicide prevention, click here.