Impact News

Responding to Violence, Suicide, Psychosis and Trauma

Suicide is rare among young children, but they’re not immune

– February 06, 2009

Feb. 6–The death of a 10-year-old boy found hanging this week in an Evanston school bathroom demonstrates that even the youngest aren’t immune from taking their lives, mental health experts said Thursday.

Though rare, suicide is the sixth-leading cause of death among children ages 5 to 14. Among ages 15 to 24, it’s the third leading cause, said Dr. Louis Kraus, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center.

Most children by age 8 understand the permanence of death but do not appreciate the consequences of their actions, he said.

“The majority of kids that kill themselves don’t intend to actually kill themselves,” Kraus said. “It’s something impulsive. It’s out of anger or frustration.”

What Aquan Lewis intended when he walked into the Oakton Elementary School bathroom Tuesday remains unknown.

The 5th grader, described as a happy child who loved sports and enjoyed school, reportedly told a teacher who scolded him that he would harm himself the same day his body was discovered hanging from the hook of a stall door, according to sources familiar with the case. A source said Aquan had psychiatric problems. His mom, Angel Marshall, said her son never harmed himself or acted suicidal.

State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) plans to introduce a bill next week that would mandate suicide prevention training for all educators statewide. Current law requires training in secondary schools but not for elementaries.

Evanston-Skokie School District 65 teachers get annual training in abuse, neglect and suicide prevention, a spokeswoman said.

Author Paul Raeburn, who has written extensively on childhood psychiatric disorders, contends suicide is almost always a symptom of mental illness.

“Adults will ask ‘why?’ The answer in almost all cases is ‘because he was sick,’ ” Raeburn said.

Tribune reporters Susan Kuczka and Ofelia Casillas contributed.

tmalone@tribune.com

brubin@tribune.com

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Filed under: Suicide

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