I cannot remember the exact age at which I first began to experience depression. Something deep inside tells me that I was very young, perhaps a toddler. The depressed feeling remains a vivid memory, as does its cause. Mother and father had an unhappy marriage that rained constant misery of our little family. Their discontent with each other overflowed and drowned me in pain and confusion. I was too young to understand what was happening between them and too vulnerable to protect my emotions. Life was something to endure.
A first grade teacher noted my emotional problems. She report on my report card that I was "moody" and suggested counseling. The next few years saw a parade of counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists who attempted to get at my difficulties and correct them. All efforts fell woefully short. Life at home continued to grow worse. My depression deepened.
Living finally became unbearable. My emotions ran wild. My behavior turned hostile. I could no longer handle the misery that hung heavy within me. Death seemed the only way out, the final means of gaining control of my inner pain. Why continue to exist in a world that for me held no hope or happiness? Thoughts of suicide toyed with my mind.
I was less than 10-years-old the first time I tried to kill myself. A handful of sleeping pills seemed like the best approach. Mother somehow found out and had my stomach pumped. Forced to continue living, I felt lifeless. A scar on my right wrist serves as a reminder of the second attempt. Numerous other death threats and suicidal gestures occurred over the following several years. I was committed to a state hospital for diagnosis and treatment at age 15. The following year, the Juvenile Court placed me in a juvenile reformatory because of my antisocial and delinquent behavior.
The years have slipped by since then and now. In retrospect, I do not believe I truly wanted to die. What I really desired was to end the pain and to have the kind of life I saw other people enjoying. My failed attempts at suicide were loud cries for help, the ultimate means of communicating that life made no sense and was beyond my control. Today, I am glad to be alive, although it took years to replace the pain of the past with the promise of the future.
Depression and suicide among children are growing social concerns. Many young people exhibit symptoms of chronic depression. Most of these children will overcome their problems and go on to lead happy lives. Others will attempt suicide. There is a link between depression and suicide. Depression is the "breeding ground" for suicide. Although the majority of depressed children are not suicidal, most suicidal children are depressed. Suicide results in the death of more children than cancer or heart disease. National statistics cite that about 10,000 boys and girls 18 years of age or younger take their own lives every year.
It is the purpose of this publication to inform parents, professionals, concerned citizens and young people about more than just the causes and effects of depression and suicide. Ways to prevent depression and suicide risk are detailed in order to prevent or reduce serious consequences. It is our hope that the information contained in the following pages will provide the reader a more complete understanding of how to help a depressed or suicidal child. The quality of a child's life may depend on your understanding.