Some children who think about suicide let everyone around them know that they are in extreme pain and need help. But some children prefer to hide their feelings from family and friends. Are you pondering if your child is suicidal? Better go straight to your child and ask him directly, as it is the best way to find it out. Don’t think twice as for children who are hesitant admitting they require help, your step will show that you as a parent cares a lot about them, and that asking for help is completely fine.
Child suicides, when thinking about this, you must note the factors that make children to attempt for suicide. There are two most important risk factors i.e. situations that increases the chance for a child to develop suicidal behavior and the protective factors that reduces the risks. Situation becomes worst if a child has too many risk factors and almost zero protective factors.
Child suicides and self-damage has been used in a context of behaviors. It refers to intentionally causing pain and damaging your own body, and can be suicidal or non-suicidal attempt. Self-damage is becoming more common among children. Some children who self-damage may also have suicidal thoughts or intentions.
Self-damage and suicides, both include cutting, burning, biting, scratching their own skin, scab their wounds so they don’t heal, hair pulling, punching, hitting the body, consuming harmful substances like poisons etc. In other words, suicides and self-damage is a sign that a child is in an extreme emotional pain and distress.
Risk factors for Child suicides and self-damage
• Major loss – It includes any recent demise of a family member, a friend or even a pet. Separation or divorce of parents also provoke kids for suicide.
• A psychological disorder - especially a mood disorder like depression and stress-related disorders.
• Alcohol intake – Alcohol intake along with having disciplinary problems can lead to suicidal behavior.
• Past suicide attempts increases the risk for another suicide attempts.
• Family history of suicide – It is one of the alarming factor just like domestic violence, neglect and child abuse.
• No social support - Child having no support from family or friends, can feel so neglected that suicide seems to be a perfect way out of problems.
• A victim of bullying is at a high risk of suicide.
• The more helpless child feels, the more likely they choose to end their life. Helpless feeling can be due to the feeling of guilt, shame, worthless and even low self-esteem.
• Extreme level of emotional sensitivity.
• A tendency to suppress emotions along with some effective mechanisms for dealing with emotional stress.
• Family conflicts and poor relationship with parents.
• High impulsivity and engagement in risky behaviors.
• Having a family history of suicide and self-damage.
• Poor body structure.
• Poor coping skills.
• Difficulties in solving problems.
Difference between child suicides and self-damage
Self-damage and suicidal behaviors involves proper planning or attempting suicide. They both are related, but the relationship between the two is quite confusing. As they look similar, it is very difficult to tell the difference between them. Self-damage is mainly used to feel better rather than to end one’s life. Some children who prefers self-damage mention that it helps them to avoid suicide. In other words, self-damage is a non-suicidal tendency.
Child suicides and self-damage differ in several ways:
• Intention – Self-damage is done only to feel better while suicides are done to end the life completely.
• Methodology – Methods adopted in self-damage only damages the surface of the body. Well, it is very common for individual to identify same methods for both the purpose.
• Level of Damage - Self-damage is carried out using methods designed to damage the body that too, not badly enough to require treatment or life threatening. Suicide attempts are typically more lethal.
• Frequency of application - Self-damage is mostly used off-and-on to manage stress and other emotions. Suicidal behaviors are much rarer.
• Children who are suicidal experience high cognitive constriction. The intensity of cognitive constriction is less severe in children who use self-damage as a coping mechanism.
• After effect - The aftereffect of a self-damage is short-term improvement in sense of well-being and functioning whereas the aftereffect of a suicides is the opposite.
Supportive steps for child suicides and self-damage behavior
There are many support options for child suicides and self-damage behavior. Try to talk to a child whom you observe is having suicidal or self-damage tendencies, no matter you are a family member, doctor, school counsellor or a friend. Child suffering from such emotional pain need a situation to build up courage to open to someone. Patiently try to understand them and show that you are with them, no matter what the situation is. You can also involve an expert or consultant or any unknown person in solving child’s emotional distress. You can:
- Consult a doctor or psychologist. He can work with your child to draft a mental health treatment plan which can include some counselling sessions.
• You can arrange a counselling sessions over phone. It is confidential, also, you or your child is not required to provide name or address. It is available for children above the age of 5 years.
• Kids Helpline is for young children aged between 5 and 25. Parents can arrange a talk to a counsellor about anything at any time.
• Several online programs too are conducted these days to help children who may suffer from depression and anxiety.
Ways to know that child has suicidal and self-damage tendencies
It is really tough to recognize whether a child has suicidal and self-damage tendencies as many children who self-damage, prefer to keep it secret. Keep observations and trust your instincts, especially if you think your child is distressed or in trouble. Some signs may include:
• New marks of bruises, cuts or burns on their body.
• Wish to be detached from friends, family and school.
• A sudden drop in performance at school or other activities.
• Changes in mood, sleep and eating patterns.
• Start avoiding activities which they mostly enjoyed.
• Avoid to attend occasions or involve in activities where their injuries will be exposed such as the beach or pool.
• Prefer wearing unsuitable cloths to cover up their wounds.
• Making random excuses for injuries or change in behavior.
• Blood stains on towels, clothing; blood-soaked tissues.
• Prefers to be alone for long time.
• Child who self-damages may claim to have many mishaps, in order to explain away injuries.
• Talking about feeling hopeless or trapped.
• Talking about being a burden to others or not belonging.
• Talking about suicide or wanting to die.
• Writing or drawing about suicide, or acting it out in play.
Ways to talk with child who is involved in self-damaging
Being parents, it is tough for you to handle alone a child who self-damages. You can take help from anyone. Here, I can provide few suggestion which you can follow:
• Ask your child how things are going or how they are feeling. Practice this frequently.
• Assure them that you are always there in their support, no matter what the situation is.
• Show them your concern about them and the reason behind it.
• There is no harm in asking if they are thinking about suicide. If they are, or you think they might be, call your doctor or take any expert’s help.
• Be patient, listen carefully and don’t judge them. If they seem upset or angry it may just mean they are feeling ashamed or worried about what you might think.
• Allow them to seek support from a person they trust or who makes them feel more comfortable; it can be their teacher or counsellor or anyone.
• Don’t expect that they will express everything the moment you want. Give them time and try again sometime later.
- Try to distract them by going for a walk, playing a game, watching their favorite movie or anything which they enjoy.
• Suggest them for deep breathing. Trust me, it works efficiently.
• Focus on the feelings or situations that lead to suicide and self-damage. This can help a child you are confiding in better understand that you are a well-wisher.
Best alternatives for child suicides and self-damage
By distracting or diverting, the child suicides and self-damage behavior, urges may reduce the intensity over time. Encourage your child to use following ideas for distraction:
• Hold an ice cube and try squeezing it.
• Eat an ice cube. The sensation they will feel may take their mind off intense distress.
• Opt exercise as it releases endorphins which helps in lifting the mood.
• Wear rubber band around wrist and snap every time they feel distressed.
• Involve in drawing, coloring, meditation or certain craft activities like painting etc.
• Punch a pillow whenever feel stressed.
• Store some things in a bag that brings comfort like photographs, a favorite toy, toffees, candies etc. Keep it somewhere handy and explore it when feel like self-damaging.
• Take a bath.
- Play with a pet.
• Try composing a poem.
• Chew something having strong taste like peppermint, chili peppers.
• Massage on neck, feet and hands. It will give an effect of an acupressure.
• Go online to a self-help website, chat room, or message board.
If you think any child you know might be self-damaging, it is important to try to talk to them about it, and encourage them for professional help. Don’t try to force them to stop, as it can make matters worse. Talking to children who have suicidal and self-damage tendencies about their behavior can be safe and very helpful if done in a proper supportive way.