Teenage suicide is a tragedy, and we do all we can to prevent it by screening for warning signs in our adolescents who come to visit us for their various health care needs. But did you ever think about suicides occurring in even younger children? Sheftall et al. (10.1542/peds.2016-0436) have done just that by analyzing a national surveillance database that contains comprehensive information on suicides in 17 states and sadly to our surprise and dismay, 693 cases were between 5 and 14 years of age. The authors broke their observational data into combined school age and preteen (5-11 years) and early teen (12-14 years) and compared these two subgroups with each other.
A number of differences are noted in the younger children who committed suicide including more family than boyfriend/girlfriend issues (which is not unexpected), and the fact that these younger children have more attention deficit disorder problems and less depression or dysthymia than the early teens did, suggesting impulsiveness as a potential factor in these unnecessary childhood deaths.
There are other troubling demographics shared in this study that warrant your attention and perhaps a more careful inquiry into the wellness of children and preteen patients in your practice who demonstrate some of the risk factors written about in this study. Reading this study may help you save a life you never realized you might have to save at such an early age—hence our calling attention to this important study being released this week.