What Is Suicide?

In the adult world, there are many terms that are a mystery to kids. We think kids and teens should know about these things, too. One of those terms is suicide. When people talk about it, in other words, they mean suicide. This, in turn, means that a person decides to take his or her own life. At first glance, this may sound incomprehensible or illogical to you. However, it is actually the case that these people are subjected to a pressure of suffering that they can no longer endure at some point. To end their suffering, they then see no other way out than to kill themselves. Because kids and teenagers can also have suicidal thoughts, we would like to educate you about this topic today.

Causes Of Suicidal Thoughts In Children And Adolescents

Even younger children can develop suicidal fantasies. They play with the thought of what it would be like if they were no longer around. Usually the thoughts go even further, wondering how they could do it without suffering great pain Children who think of such things are usually sad and depressed. This is not their own fault, but is due to factors beyond their control. This is exactly the reason why such people suffer so much: They no longer have any influence over these thoughts and feelings. That is why they feel powerless. If no help is received from outside, the worst case scenario is actually a suicide attempt and perhaps even death. But even if a person does not die of suicide, it can end tragically for them. Disabilities and limitations in further life are not infrequently the result of suicide attempts. The reasons for suicidal thoughts are basically similar in adults and children. They usually come about in the following ways:

Family Problems

Children depend on strong family cohesion. Because they are dependent on their parents, they need their love and affection. If they live in hostile circumstances, children may become distressed and sad. For example, if a child lives with only one parent and the parent himself suffers from a serious illness, then it is difficult for the child to manage his life well despite this. This is because it cannot live as carefree as others. Instead, it may worry about its mother or father and have to take care of him or her. But also divorces, suicide cases in the family, family abuse cases as well as neglect by the parents can trigger depression and suicidal thoughts in children.

If there is a cold climate in the family that allows little joy, this quickly affects the child’s mind. A poor relationship with the parents can also trigger fears that the child cannot cope with. If he does not receive support, he feels completely overwhelmed by his life. If there are dangerous drugs, firearms or other sources of danger in the home, impulsive adolescents are particularly at risk of committing suicide.

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Predisposition And Diseases

Currently, scientists believe that suicidal behavior has something to do with the neurotransmitter serotonin. This is normally present in sufficient quantities in the brain and balances our moods so that we can normally feel good despite everyday challenges. Certain diseases can cause a deficient supply of serotonin in the body. This low serotonin level is thought to be linked to suicide attempts in children in a way that is still unclear. Because suicide occurs specifically in kids who have already had a suicide case in the family, it is suspected that the genes for it may be passed on to some extent.

Development, Personal Tendency And Puberty

It is true that even elementary school children can be prone to depressive or suicidal behavior. However, it becomes particularly dangerous for kids when they experience puberty. This difficult phase of life is characterized by challenges and changes that are not always easy to cope with. Many kids lose the necessary support during this time, when they are also exposed to family stresses such as divorce. Children who react aggressively and impulsively to problems are more prone to suicide than others. They brood a lot and are often lonely because they don’t get along well with other kids. With their low self-esteem, they feel a certain hopelessness that is steadily increasing. With puberty, the topic of sexuality also comes up. Kids who don’t yet know whether they are straight or gay can suffer greatly. Some feel they are in the wrong body or have the feeling that they are somehow different. This can lead to the point where they want to take their own lives because they don’t think they are valuable enough.

In addition, many kids lack problem-solving skills and independence. In our time of increasing demands, it is important to face problems without fear. Those who cannot do this find it difficult to cope. As a result, self-esteem suffers, which can ultimately lead to suicide attempts.

Trauma And Stressful Events

As mentioned earlier, kids are very sensitive to changes in their environment. If the family is in crisis, the little ones in particular suffer. They no longer feel safe as soon as the adults can no longer properly fulfill their protective role. Illnesses, deaths and other crises are sometimes triggers for childhood depression. Also, when sexual abuse, beatings or neglect is experienced firsthand, the soul suffers. Affected kids feel ashamed and usually don’t want to talk about it with anyone. The resulting loneliness provides even more room for brooding, which can eventually lead to suicidal thoughts developing in the child.

If a parent or sibling has taken his or her own life, the children are particularly at risk. Not only because they have lost a valuable caregiver, but because suicide is no longer taboo for them. Problems with teachers and schoolmates can also have a negative impact on the child’s well-being if they continue for too long. Kids with low self-esteem blame themselves and eventually despair. Loneliness is also an important factor in suicide. When one is lonely, moods and depression can develop very quickly. In addition, one has no one to confide in. The lack of friends and trusted family members can lead to unimaginable distress in the child – especially when they are having problems or entering puberty.

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Mental Illness

If a mental illness is present, then suicide may occur because of this illness, even though from the outside there are no acute problems in the young person’s life. Kids with anxiety disorders, depression, personality disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder react differently to upcoming challenges than healthy kids. For them, the smallest change in life can provide an occasion for suicidal thoughts.

In addition, during a condition called psychosis, the child may experience perceptual disturbances or delusions. A psychosis is a condition in which one experiences oneself as well as the environment differently than normally. Those affected hear voices in their head, have hallucinations and no longer feel themselves properly. In this situation, kids perceive reality in a distorted way and are at high risk of suicide. Sometimes subsequent deaths are not suicides in the true sense of the word, but rather the result of psychotic experiences. For example, one may run in front of a car because one does not “see” it or perceive it as something else.

Psychosis is triggered by either mental illness or the use of drugs. Unstable or mentally ill kids should therefore generally refrain from drug use, as this can significantly worsen their condition and, in the worst case, lead to psychosis with serious consequential damage. In general, the risk of suicide in mentally ill kids is about 10 times higher than in healthy ones.

Other Risk Factors

If you find yourself in a situation where you are very distressed, this can become dangerous under certain circumstances if you do not get help. The following factors can encourage impulsive people to act on their pre-existing suicidal thoughts:

  • Alcohol or drug use.
  • Impulse control disorders and unstable personality.
  • Cases of suicide in the immediate environment.
  • Previous suicide attempts.
  • Bad strokes of fate.

This Does Not Have To Be The Case

Especially after a suicide attempt, you need special protection from a reliable person in whom you can confide. This is necessary so that things don’t get as bad for you as before. Kids with suicidal thoughts who have not yet attempted suicide also need a lot of attention. If you get progressively worse, you can check yourself into a clinic. In any case, you should take advantage of therapeutic measures if you have suicidal thoughts or are constantly sad. You can read more about how to do this below.

Warning Signs For Parents And Children

When a child reaches puberty, he or she needs a lot of patience and attention. This is because during this time of change between the ages of 11 and 21, not only physical changes occur in children, but also psychological ones. The first signs of depressive illness or suicidal thoughts therefore often come to light during puberty.

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Strong Fears

Everyone has certain fears. Of course, this is also true for kids and teenagers. These fears can occur in phases and eventually disappear completely. In adolescents, these fears can become increasingly abstract and seem inappropriate. Fears are therefore something normal. However, as soon as a child becomes too restricted by them, the fear can develop into a so-called anxiety disorder. Like all mental illnesses, anxiety disorder carries an increased risk of suicide. Kids with anxiety disorder need family cohesion and support from their parents. This provides them with the security they so desperately need. In addition, it is necessary to begin therapy to get to the bottom of the cause of the anxiety.

Consumption Of Alcohol Or Drugs

The occasional use of alcohol and legal drugs can be difficult to stop after a certain age. Most teenagers tend to try those substances. As long as they do not overdo it, there is not too much danger in and of itself. Usually, trying things out becomes uninteresting at some point anyway. It gets difficult when kids and teenagers regularly consume alcohol or drugs. Not infrequently, this is an indication that there is a bigger problem that they are trying to avoid. Affected kids can not only suffer serious alcohol poisoning, but become addicted very quickly. This affects mental health and is a risk factor in terms of suicidality. This very addiction entails serious, social consequences if help is not received early enough. In case of regular consumption of alcohol or other drugs, a visit to the drug counseling center or to a child and adolescent psychiatrist is therefore appropriate and necessary.


For outsiders it is hardly understandable why one should inflict more or less deep wounds on oneself. Nevertheless, there are a great many kids and adolescents today who deliberately self-injure by “scoring” themselves, cutting themselves, burning themselves with cigarette butts, or otherwise inflicting harm. Kids and teens with mental illness are more prone to self-injurious behavior than healthy ones. Lack of self-esteem is often one of the reasons. If kids do this regularly, it develops into a kind of addiction. They can no longer stop by themselves, even if they would like to. Whenever they face a difficult challenge or something doesn’t go as expected, they reach for the knife and relapse.

Whether this act serves to attract attention or the person concerned actually feels a kind of liberation is difficult to judge from the outside and actually does not matter. Because: if a child hurts himself, he urgently needs help – no matter what the reason is. Self-injury is so dangerous not least because it blurs the line to suicide for young people. If the self-inflicted pain can be suppressed, the step toward suicide is no longer as frightening. As a result, impulsive kids who self-harm are sometimes at high risk for suicide.

Therapy At Health Insurance Costs

Depending on the nature of the circumstances or mental illness at hand, other therapy may be an option. In addition to typical psychotherapy, elements of remedial education, movement therapy, speech therapy or art therapy may be used. It is important that the child’s caregivers are involved in the therapy work and provide the best possible support at home or at school.

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In psychotherapy, discussions are held with a trained psychotherapist, who is of course (like any doctor) bound by confidentiality. This means that he is not allowed to talk to outsiders about the contents of these appointments unless you want him to. Anything you tell your therapist remains between the two of you unless you agree otherwise. Today, there is no shame in going to psychotherapy. Many kids and adults take it up to get back to a life with more satisfaction. And that’s a good thing. Because starting psychotherapy is the most important step in the healing process of mentally ill people. Because psychotherapy is so important for the health of many people, it is usually paid for by health insurance. This requires a consultation with a psychiatrist or the family doctor. He or she can issue a referral and has a list of psychotherapists to choose from. Because very many people need therapy, but there are only a few therapists, there can unfortunately be a waiting time. However, in urgent cases (for example, suicide), you can get a therapy place quite quickly.

You should make good use of this time by making regular appointments and then showing up. Because you have very intensive conversations with the therapist, the atmosphere between him and you should definitely be good. If you have the feeling that you don’t really get along with your psychotherapist, then you should consider trying it with another one. Only in this way is it possible for you to open up completely and work on yourself. The psychotherapy will be terminated by mutual agreement as soon as you have worked through all the problems and found solution strategies for yourself. A (groundless!) discontinuation on your part can have serious consequences, since the health insurance company may not pay for a new therapy.

Self-Referral In Case Of Persistent Suicidal Thoughts

If you feel so bad that you can no longer control your suicidal thoughts, you should not stay alone. In this case, there is the possibility of self-referral for acute suicidal danger. A conversation with the doctor or a call to the local child and adolescent psychiatric clinic will clarify whether you can get a place for an inpatient stay immediately. The hospital must admit you if you express suicidal intent. It’s better not to think too long about admitting yourself, but just do it if you see yourself in danger. Staying in a clinic can cushion the worst and support you in getting through this phase well. Plus, you won’t be alone and will be protected from harming yourself.

Worksheet For The Text

1) Explain the difficult words in the text.

What does…

  • Suicide.
  • Psychosis.

2) What circumstances can lead to suicidal thoughts in children and adolescents?

3) What to do if you have acute suicidal thoughts?

Photo: Mike_Kiev / bigstockphoto.com

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