March 19, 2013
Risks Of Suicide Ideation And Attempts In Children
Suicide ideation and attempts in children and teens are very serious issues. Depression and behavioral problems also are very serious. Combine these four issues with a child who is autistic, and the seriousness compounds. In a recent release about a study conducted by Penn State professors of psychiatry, findings showed some sobering risk factors for children with autism concerning suicide ideation and attempts.
Accordingly, “The researchers found that the percentage of children with autism rated by their parents as sometimes to very often contemplating or attempting suicide was 28 times greater than that of typical children, though three times less than that of depressed non-autistic children.” On top of the risk for children with autism, four other demographic variables affected the risk: Black or Hispanic, 10 years old or older, socioeconomic status, and male.
The study found that the more of these demographic risk factors a child exhibited in combination with being autistic, the more likely the child would be to contemplate suicide or even attempt it. The press release had a surfeit of statistics to implicate how real and dangerous these risk factors are, but I am not going to throw those in here.
Here, I want to focus on the human part of this situation. An autism spectrum disorder often prevents those with it from connecting with other humans. Even parents struggle with genuine connection with children who suffer from some form of autism. Moreover, the variety of possible autism disorders leads to different issues and severity.
As if that was not enough, now researchers have found that autistic children are more likely to suffer from suicidal ideation and attempt suicide. The single strongest predictor that an autistic child might consider suicide was depression, but the fact that race, age, class, and gender can also impact those thoughts means that we know what to look for and who to look at in order to help these individuals.
Suicide has such a domino effect. I do not mean that one suicide leads to another; rather, I mean that one suicide has many different impacts on all those in the sufferer’s life. The guilt and pain that loved ones feel after a suicide is something none should ever have to feel. That is why the findings from this research are so important so that we can help those who suffer from thoughts of suicide that could lead to attempts or even suicide itself.
If risk factors such as those listed above can help us to help those who might feel suicide is the only option, then we should pay close attention to the children around us who are autistic. The findings showed that 71 percent of autistic children with all four of the demographic risk factors had experienced suicide ideation or attempts while 94 percent of children with autism without any of the four demographic risk factors had no contemplation or attempt of suicide. Those numbers are enough to show that we must pay attention to children suffering from any of the risk factors including autism, depression, and behavioral problems.
We cannot pretend that everything will be all right if we just ignore the symptoms as such. If a child in your life might suffer from any of the demographic risk factors as well as depression or behavioral problems, then help them. Take them to the doctor and find them the help they need to deal with their emotions and situations. Although this study shows that children with autism are at a greater risk, we should not ignore the risk factors in all children. Their lives and mental health depend on our attentions.
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