By Taiwo AKINLAMI
Rain fell steadily, as if sharing the grief that Karianna Butcher felt while searching for her son in the city of Logan. Brice Butcher had left home two hours earlier and it was typical for Brice to take time to himself, maybe sit in a nearby tree and think for a while. But on April 30, 2023, Brice never came home like he usually did after cooling down from an argument or a rough day at school.
As Butcher searched, dusk turned into what she described as a wet and cold night. She went home, called the police and told them her 15-year-old was missing.
Brice had disappeared just a few days after he had gotten into a fight at Logan High School where he was a student. It was the kind of incident Butcher said became more frequent for her son following the years of on-and-off isolation forced by COVID-19.
As the pandemic wound down, Butcher said her once outgoing, funny, helpful and academically high-achieving son began acting out and his grades slipped.
Each of those changes in Brice flooded back into Butcher’s head when he didn’t return home that night. Butcher worried he was struggling with his mental health more than she had realized. A day later, her worst fears became a reality as her son’s lifeless body was found in a nearby wooded area. Brice had taken his own life. – Source: firstname.lastname@example.org
SENSES (Child Safeguarding and Protection Principle):
The death of a child is always heartbreaking and horribly, horribly wrong. But when a child dies by suicide, it brings a whole different level of grief, pain, and anguished bewilderment to those who cared about the child.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people ages between 15 to 24 in the U.S. Nearly 20% of high school students report serious thoughts of suicide and 9% have tried to take their lives, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Suicides among Ohioans ages 19 and under jumped from 90 in 2016 to a peak of 135 in 2018, marking a 45% increase, according to data from the Ohio Department of Health. After 2018, suicide among Ohio youth declined until 2020 when numbers began to rise again.
While many factors are at play, the uptick is in part the result of pandemic isolation and the insidious creep of social media into every corner of kids’ lives, experts say.
Some important warning signs of suicidal behavior in children are:
- Aggressive or hostile behavior
- Anxiety or restlessness
- A change in personality (from upbeat to quiet)
- Declining interest in friends, activities, or hobbies previously enjoyed.
- Expressions of hopelessness about the future, like “You won’t have to worry about me anymore”
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, or self-hatred
- Frequent statements or social media posts about self-harm or suicide, like “I wish I were dead”
- Giving away things of importance
- Neglecting personal appearance or grooming
- Preoccupation with death in conversation, writing, or drawing
STONE (Call to action):
As parents here are some strategies to help your child if you think they are having suicidal thoughts:
Be aware. While rare in young children, suicide is possible. Know the warning signs and risk factors that may increase your child’s risk of suicide.
Get your child treatment. If your child is depressed or at high risk for depression or another mental illness, it’s essential to get them treatment.
Keep weapons locked up. Keep weapons, medications, alcohol, and poisons safely away from children, but this is especially important for children at risk of suicide.
Talk to your child. Talking about suicide will not give your child the idea to attempt suicide. If a friend or other loved one has died, committed suicide, or is extremely ill, talk to your child about it and address their feelings.
Be supportive. Research has found that parental support can help decrease the risk of suicidal thoughts in children.
Finally, as primary and secondary parents we must make it a duty to prepare our children to be able to thrive and excel in the very volatile world of today. Apart from preparing them by building their self-worth and resilience, we must keep the communication channels between us and our precious children deliberately open. This increases our sensitivity to their welfare and helps them to be able to speak to us about their concerns promptly. Upon the discovery of any of the warning signs listed above we must first be ready to get professional help for them from credible and tested sources.
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