Children who commit suicide under age 12 are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder more than any other mental health issue, according to a new study.
The study, reported in The New York Times, examined child suicide deaths in 17 states from 2003 to 2012, and compared two age groups: 87 children ages 5 to 11 who committed suicide, and 606 adolescents ages 12 to 14 who committed suicide.
The younger children were more likely to have ADD, while the older children were diagnosed with depression. The conclusions were stark: While focusing prevention methods on depression for older children, a focus on ADD for the younger children would seem a more prudent path.
Researchers were quick to point out that the findings did not create a cause-and-effect relationship, but the study's senior author, epidemiologist Jeffrey Bridge, said, "Maybe in young children we need to look at behavioral markers" as a part of a complex picture. Jill Harkavy-Friedman, vice president of research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, agreed, and told the Times, "Not everybody who is at risk for suicide has depression."
The study reported that most had fought with a relative or peer before committing suicide, and about a third had had a problem at school. Another third had recently been through some sort of crisis before committing suicide.
The study also found that about 37 percent of the younger group were black, compared with just 12 percent of the older group.
About 30 percent of all children studied had reported suicidal intentions or thoughts, emphasizing the importance of taking them seriously when they do bring up the matter. Sometimes, the study emphasized, it's important to just ask and listen.
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