TUESDAY, May 26, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Youth suicide is a major problem in the United States, but being alert to the warning signs can help avert tragedy, experts say.
Thousands of teens take their own lives every year, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds, and the sixth leading cause of death among 5- to 14-year-olds, the academy explained in a news release.
Many signs of symptoms of suicidal feelings are similar to depression and parents should be alert for such signs, according to the academy.
These signs include:
- changes in eating and sleeping habits,
- withdrawal from family, friends and regular activities,
- violent or rebellious behavior, or running away,
- drug and alcohol use,
- unusual neglect of personal appearance, or significant personality changes,
- chronic boredom, concentration problems, or lower quality of schoolwork,
- frequent complaints about headaches, stomachaches, fatigue and other physical symptoms often linked to emotions,
- loss of interest in pleasurable activities and being unwilling to accept praise or rewards.
Possible warning signs of suicidal thoughts also include: complaining of being a bad person or feeling bad; saying things such as "I won't be a problem for you much longer"; giving away favorite things, throwing away important belongings; suddenly becoming cheerful after a period of depression; and having bizarre thoughts or hallucinations.
Parents should always take it seriously if a child or teen makes statements such as, "I want to kill myself." That's a sign to immediately seek help from a mental health professional, the academy advised.
With appropriate treatment and support from their families, children and teens with suicidal feelings can heal, the academy said.
The issue of child suicide was back in the spotlight this month with a new study published online in JAMA Pediatrics. It found that suicides among black American children have increased in recent years, while fewer white children are killing themselves.
The new analysis found that although the odds of suicide in children aged 5 to 11 remain small, young black children are three times as likely to do so as whites.
One of the authors of that new report, Jeffrey Bridge, of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, said that "parents and health care providers need to be aware that children under the age of 12 can and sometimes do think about suicide."
Bridge suggested that "it is important to ask children directly about suicide if there is a concern about a child. For example: 'Are you having thoughts about killing yourself?' The research has shown that asking children directly about suicide will not trigger subsequent suicidal thinking or behavior. It does not hurt to ask."
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about preventing suicide in children.