Suicidal Kids linked to ADD/ADHD more than Depression

New Study on a “hidden” problem
Kids who kill themselves

Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

an edited reblog for ADD Awareness Month
from Devon Frye, September 20, 2016

Looking at the overlooked

Children under the age of 12 are often overlooked in conversations about suicide and suicide prevention. The sobering reality is that a small number of U.S. children between the ages of 5 and 11 kill themselves every single year.

A new study finds that ADHD* — not depression — is the most common diagnosis for children who commit suicide between the ages of 5 and 11.

The study adds another dimension to the story of suicide’s youngest victims: more of them lived with ADHD* than any other mental health diagnosis — even depression.

* The original article uses “ADHD” — even though I avoid that “H”
unless I am quoting others or directly referring to gross motor hyperactivity
only one symptom in a profile that is only sometimes part of an ADD diagnosis.

About the Study

The study, published September 19th in the journal Pediatrics, looked at 87 children between the ages of 5 and 11 who took their own lives between 2003 and 2012.

They were compared with 606 adolescents, between the ages of 12 and 17, who committed suicide in the same period.

Data was drawn from the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), a U.S. database that collects information from coroners, police officers, and death certificates to track violent deaths.

All the children hailed from one of 17 states that participate in the NVDRS and allow outside researchers to access the data. Approximately one-third of the children overall had a documented mental health diagnosis.

Age seems to matter

In adolescence, children who committed suicide were most likely to be suffering from depression — nearly two-thirds of teens who took their own lives showed depressive symptoms before their deaths.

But in children under the age of 12, depression only showed up in a third of the children. An overwhelming majority — more than 60 percent — had ADHD (primarily hyperactive type).

CDC Statistics & Strategies

Recent statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found a suicide rate of 0.17 per 100,000 for kids under the age of 12 —
while adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 commit suicide at a rate of 5.18 per 100,000.

  • Suicide prevention strategies for this age group (as well as for adults) have historically focused on identifying and treating depression, the researchers said.
  • But based on the results of this study, a depression-focused strategy might be ineffective for the youngest children who are at risk.

“Maybe in young children, we need to look at behavioral markers,” said Jeffrey Bridge, the lead author of the paper and an epidemiologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

“The results might suggest that suicide among young children is more the result of impulsivity than long-term depression,” he said.

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Another voice rings in

Not every suicide expert agreed. Dr. Nancy Rappaport, a child psychiatrist who was not involved in the study, wondered if undiagnosed pediatric bipolar disorder might be the cause.

A lot of children with that condition, which is marked by volatile mood swings and debilitating depression, “are often undiagnosed under 12,” she said in an interview with the New York Times. In many cases, she added, these children are mistakenly diagnosed with ADHD.

Regardless, experts agree it’s important to take suicidal thoughts or words seriously — at any age — and say that parents shouldn’t be afraid to talk to their children about what they’re thinking and feeling.

“It’s okay to ask your child, ‘Are you feeling like you don’t want to be around anymore?’” said Jill Harkavy-Friedman, the vice president of research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “It won’t put the idea in their head, but it opens the door for a conversation.”

Higher Suicide Rates in the Black community

The study identified another disturbing trend: an unusually high rate of suicide among African American children.  37 percent of the children who killed themselves were black, even though black children only make up 15 percent of the youth population in the U.S.

This discovery builds on a 2015 study — conducted by some of the same researchers — that found that while the suicide rate among white youth was dropping, since 1990 it’s nearly doubled for black children.

ADHD diagnoses are rising for this group, too — leading some researchers to wonder if there could be a connection between rising ADHD diagnoses and rising suicide rates.

“This study shouldn’t raise alarms for African-American families that have children diagnosed with ADD that they need to worry that their child will impulsively kill themselves,” Rappaport added. “It’s usually a much more complicated picture.”

Source: Suicide Linked to ADHD More Than Depression in Children

MORE to think about in response to this study

While not discussed in the post by Frye, this study highlights something else that is urgently important: the importance of making SURE your children are appropriately diagnosed and treated — as soon as you suspect something might be going on!

Related Post: The Importance of a Diagnosis

Where do YOU stand on early diagnosis and treatment?  Did reading this article shift the conversation for you in any manner?  Let me know – down there in a comment.

Take time to read the comments below from Wendy,
who attempted to kill herself at age 11.
(newest on top, so scroll down to her first and read UP)

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Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

31 Responses to Suicidal Kids linked to ADD/ADHD more than Depression

  1. Pingback: November 2017 Mental Health Awareness | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. Pingback: Mental Health Awareness in November | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  3. Debbie says:

    Madelyn, thank you for this sobering post.

    It’s hard to know where to begin to respond. A big hug out there to Reader Wendy also.

    As you say, diagnosis and treatment.

    thank you for this article.


  4. Pingback: Great balls of fire | Beth Byrnes

  5. This is tragic information – that children so young could end their life. Wendy’s comments bring this piece to a personal level. Thanks for sharing this important information

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wendy says:

    The gun was in my father’s drawer. It was intentional. I remember I had been fighting with my sister. It was impulsive.
    I would feel very out of control when emotions were high.
    I still struggle with that, but not like I used to.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Let’s hope not in that manner, at least. You help SO many people on your wonderful blog, we NEED you!

      As a military officer, I know now that my father always kept a gun for protection – especially when traveling – but we never saw it. I have no idea where he kept it, or what kind of licensure he held. (We were also not allowed to go in my parent’s bedroom unless invited in, so somewhere there is a great bet.)

      Any time he saw my brothers playing shoot ’em up games, my father always trotted out the lecture of NEVER pointing a real gun at anyone you didn’t intend to kill – and only in self-defense.

      The lesson may have been lost on my brothers when they were younger, but I’ll bet they never forgot it. I never did.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wendy says:

        My father was in the service then he was a forest ranger. And a hunter. Guns were around. Not hidden well.
        This hand gun was thought to be put away. I wasn’t supposed to go in there, but I knew it was there.
        I can’t say gun safety was ever stressed in my house, but I knew not to play with it. I knew what it would do. I was serious. At that moment.
        When it didn’t go off I put it away quickly so I wouldn’t get in trouble.
        My family never knew about this.

        No I wouldn’t do it now. I think you know that.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I do know you wouldn’t, my dear friend – I wrote that for anyone else reading.

          Practically paradoxically (and regardless of the way in which many people feel about guns), many children of hunters are taught to respect guns at a very young age, so are less likely to play with them. It’s also more difficult for a child to kill himself (or herself) with a hunters rifle than a hand gun.

          This thread gives me the shivers!

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Wendy says:

    READERS: I put the important points of this comment in bold, and added spacing – hoping to attract your attention – words unchanged
    I don’t have ADD, I’m Bipolar, but had the volital ups and downs as a youth.

    When I was 11 I put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger. Luckily the safety was on.

    No one expects suicide from someone so young. Thank you for bringing this out in the light.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Wendy! Thanks SO much for ringing in/ It IS hard to believe that an 11 year old would almost kill herself, but you are living proof (thank God) that it happens more than we realize. It would have been such a loss to the world had the safety not been on.

      Where was the gun that you could get to it? Can you recall what put the thought in your head to shoot yourself? Did you intend to kill yourself, for example, or mocking something you had seen on television or in a movie, was it a wild angry threat of the moment that you acted upon impulsively – etc?

      Impulsivity is generally ascribed to ADD/ADHD, so few people note or recall that it is also a feature of bipolar disorder – which, as the article says, is often mistaken for ADD/HD in young kids.

      The study didn’t say, but I wonder HOW those children who took their lives died – that certainly would have shed more light on the problem and helped to target preventative measures.

      This is a good time to remind everyone: GUN SAFETY!!


      Liked by 1 person

  8. And then there is the slow agonizing suicide of drugs and alcohol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes – it’s hard to watch and harder to go through. The only positive about the slower method is the hope that the life can be saved.

      Interesting note about ADD, alcoholism & medication, btw: Although AA generally discourages substance use of ANY sort, the stats are amazing about the recovery possible once ADDers are properly medicated. ADDvocates have been trying to educate The Groups for decades about this, trying to get them to stop throwing psych medications under addiction’s bus.

      GREAT book by a colleague who is an addiction specialist: The Link Between ADD and Addiction (older – still relevant – and usually available used on Amazon; author: Wendy Richardson)

      Thanks for your comment, Carl.


  9. joliesattic says:

    What is EF? Did you ever get my email?
    We did find our son. I gave him your info, but I can’t force him to follow up. I will continue to forward your links in hopes that something sticks. Thanks again.


  10. bethbyrnes says:

    It’s interesting that you posted this thoughtful and vital information, Madelyn. I just today, coincidentally, wrote about ODD and related mood disorders, such as ADHD, Tourette’s, Bipolar, Depression and OCD. I was shocked to learn that ODD and IED often end in suicide. It’s terrible, especially since parents are usually unaware of the proper way to treat mood disorders.
    Beth’s blog is not mental health focused (and her interesting content is always chock full of beautiful photography with thoughtful commentary woven throughout), but today she told us a bit about her background as an educator and had some comments about how teachers need to treat these kids that warmed my heart. Thanks Beth!

    Here’s the link to her post: Great Balls of Fire. Only one of her thoughtful comments is this: “The latest thinking in child development psychology is that punishment does not produce learning but only short term benefits with long term deficits.”


    • And you didn’t leave a link? ANY time you post something related, please feel free to do that – I’ll always approve anything from you.

      I’ll be over to read it later today and will add one to your comment, unless you get back here to leave it first. (Awoke after only a few hours sleep, so headed back to bed for a few more – not all of us are morning people!)

      TOO LATE – couldn’t wait. I added to your comment already, and left one on your blog. NOW I’m going back for a nap!


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