Addressing the Rising Rate of Young Child Suicide

Suicide rates among children 5 to 11 years of age increased nearly 15% annually between 2012 and 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is now the eighth leading cause of death in this age group.

But there’s limited research that could lead to suicide prevention strategies in these young children. A recent study from the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital has helped to address that gap, by examining the characteristics and precipitating events of these deaths.

The study found that suicide in children is most often associated with mental health concerns, prior suicidal behavior, trauma — including abuse or neglect, exposure to domestic violence, suicide or the death of a family member — or peer, school or family-related problems. Suicide deaths were commonly preceded by a negative or “triggering” event on the day of death such as an argument between the child and a family member or a disciplinary action.

Identifying common themes in child suicide can help inform prevention strategies, says Donna Ruch, PhD, lead author of the study.

“We found these major themes were often co-occurring. Children with mental health concerns or a history of suicidal behavior often had traumatic histories related to adverse family situations. School problems frequently resulted in parent-child conflicts and were more likely to occur in children with mental health concerns.”

Donna Ruch, PhD, Lead Author of the Study


Nationwide Children’s has many educational resources on the topic of children and suicide – particularly addressing how to have important conversations with kids in your life. Visit On Our Sleeves®, the movement for children’s mental health, to learn more.

Support is crucial if you or a loved one is depressed or contemplating suicide. Please know that there is help. Depression is treatable and there are many effective treatment options that will meet needs. If you or your child need immediate help due to having suicidal thoughts, go to your local emergency room immediately, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or you can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting "START" to 741-741.