Health Advice



As younger children increasingly die by suicide, better tracking and prevention is sought

Cheryl Platzman Weinstock, KFF Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.


Jason Lance thought Jan. 21, 2010, was a day like any other until the call came.

He had dropped off his 9-year-old son, Montana, at Stewart’s Creek Elementary School in The Colony, Texas, that morning.

“There were no problems at home. He was smart. He wore his heart on his sleeve and he talked and talked and talked,” said Lance. It was “the same old, same old normal day. There were kisses and goodbyes and he said, ‘I love you, Daddy.’”

A few hours later, school officials called to say Montana had died by suicide while locked in the nurse’s bathroom.


“I knew he had some issues going on in school, but I never seen it coming,” said Lance. His shock and grief were complicated by the realization that there may have been more signs his son was struggling.

As children across the country step back into school routines this fall, it is important to pay attention to their mental health as well as their academics. Suicide ranks as either the seventh- or eighth-leading cause of death among children ages 5 to 11, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and recent studies. And numbers show the rates among younger kids appear to have increased in the past decade, especially among Black males.

A growing body of research shows that “historically we thought that suicide is a problem of teens and adults, but younger children are expressing similar thoughts that may have been ignored before,” said Paul Lipkin, a pediatrician at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore and a specialist in developmental disabilities such as autism.

This has many experts calling for lowering the screening age for suicide ideation in children and moving to develop more effective early suicide risk detection and targeted prevention strategies. The broad approach includes pediatricians, teachers, and parents working with children at a young age to build their resilience and identify and manage their stress.


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©2023 KFF Health News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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