Suicide in children: why do they take action?
At the beginning of 2011, only a few days apart, three children aged 9 to 11 years decided to commit suicide. A gesture arousing misunderstanding, so hard to measure the suffering that a child can feel, just like an adult. To break the taboos of suicide in children, and above all, to prevent such acts, we met Professor Jean-Philippe Raynaud, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Toulouse.
Recently, several cases of suicide in children have been reported in the press. Are these painful episodes more frequent than before?
It is by no means certain that suicide in prepubertal children has become much more widespread. We are all, no doubt, more attentive, and some taboos have somewhat yielded. On the other hand, its media coverage has increased. Moreover, it is not excluded that this mediatization, sometimes awkward, and the often passionate reactions that it arouses, can have effects invitations in fragile children. In some countries, a particular work with the media has been set up to know what it is good to communicate or not.
What can push such a young person to such a gesture?
What all individuals who commit suicide, regardless of their age, have in common is to be at some point in their journey, overwhelmed by difficulties and suffering, which are not necessarily pathological but which overwhelm them. They find themselves “prevented” from finding alternatives to the act. This is what is now called the suicidal crisis. Isolation, loss of self-confidence, physical or psychological illness, academic failure, humiliation, are some of the factors that pose a greater risk of suicide. These experiences can be masked, or their manifestations can be wrongly decoded by an entourage who has trouble, One understands, to imagine that such a young child is going through such difficulties.
Impulsivity, so common in children, is an additional factor and contributes to making the transition to the act even more unpredictable.
What warning can signs alert the family?
Parents know their child very well. As a result, they will generally warn themselves if they see a change in their behavior, their attitudes, their investments, their way of speaking about themselves, their relationships. When they are in a suicidal crisis, children sometimes send “meta-messages”: insinuations, suspended sentences, questions more or less directly related to their concerns about suicide or death, risk-taking, etc. While taking into account the age of the child and the context in which the child evolves, these messages must always be heard and taken seriously. It is better to say “for not much”
However, parents sometimes have difficulty evoking the ill-being of their child …
Some representations should evolve: to ask for help to a “shrink” is not to be a bad parent, nor to have A mentally ill child; To hear the concern of a school professional should not be seen as a charge or an intrusion, but as a shared concern for the child. Talking about his concern to his attending physician, to an association, to the resource personnel of the National Education, is a way not to remain alone in these worrying and often disarming situations.
Why is the issue of suicide in children so taboo in our society?
Suicide is linked to very ancient representations and ideologies, deeply rooted in the history of mankind, influenced by cultures, beliefs, religions, fears … The accepted ideas about suicide are made up of ” A mixture of shame, guilt, fear, interdict: all this facilitates neither exchange nor reflection. When suicide affects children, the situation is even more sensitive, more complex, “unthinkable” in the sense of hard to think, so to spot.
In order to improve suicide prevention in children , parents, but also child care professionals, should be able to think about the risk, To remain open to the small signals that are sent by children, to be confident in the look others will take on them, their child and the help they will be able to find. In this area, the media could play a major role.