Depression, Despair, and Suicide Risk in Children and Teens

Depression, Despair, and Suicide Risk in Children and Teens


If any of the below occur and you see these in your child (or in yourself, a spouse, or another relative), get professional help fast. Your pediatrician or family doctor can guide you.

  • Inability to concentrate.
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping excessively.
  • Loss of energy or interest.
  • Falling grades.
  • They don’t want to do formerly fun things because nothing makes them feel happy.
  • They ma write poetry about death or draw unhappy themes even of death in their art.
  • If they have been bullied or put down they may be particularly vulnerable.
  • If there has been a break up with a close friend or a romantic relationship.
  • Watch for depression or suicicde talk or writing.
  • If there is a family history of depression or bipolar disorder and they show changes in sleep patterns or moods or any of the above they will need help fast.

If they are being treated for the depression and not doing well they need further evaluation.


Before someone attempts suicide they fall into despair. Adults may be in despair for several days, weeks, even months. Teenagers get into despair very quickly in a matter of minutes when something bad happens. Suicide is a result of despair.

People feel so out of harmony with everything they know, which is a horrible feeling that death appears to be the only relief. It is a comforting idea, something that will give them a sense of harmony with ceasing to exist. However the problem is that despair contains a false belief that fools you that there is nothing more you can do to feel better. That is not true. The real truth about despair is that you can do something more to make life work, to go on living. It may be painful for you to move forward but despair simply means you are out of your ability to handle life with what you currently know in your life. Therefore you must create something more that works. Once you do the despair and the suicide urge goes away.

It is important to know this if you are a caregiver or someone around you appears to be getting into despair — a very dangerous condition which often leads to suicide or suicide attempts. Get help quickly for someone in this situation. If you feel despair yourself, fight off the false belief or despair that you can’t do anything to help. Instead realize you can do something. Take the risk even though you feel very uncertain to try something new. When you do the despair will go away.

If your children appear to be in despair and believe that there’s nothing more they can do tell help them find ways to make changes in their thinking and their lives. Let them know they need to do something that will work. Death is not the option. It is too permanent.

Most who despair are glad to be alive, soon after.

Duncan Wallace

R. Duncan Wallace, MD, is a psychiatrist in Salt Lake City, UT with 48 years of experience, and the author of The Book of Psychological Truths. A Psychiatrist’s Guide to Really Good Thinking for Really Great Living.

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

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  1. Gloria Coleman

    It is not possible to grasp whether or not kid killed himself advisedly or whether or not he understood the definiteness of the choice. In cases like this one, the death is often dominated accidental. Interviews conducted with coroners found that they’re usually reluctant to rule childhood deaths as suicide, even in cases of dearly self-inflicted injuries, as a result of there’s a general belief that kids don’t absolutely perceive the implications of their actions and so are incapable of committing suicide.


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