A swarm of children huddled around a petite casket, each holding onto a powder blue balloon and carrying a note to their fellow classmate, Ashlynn Conner.
Ashlynn’s older sister discovered the 10-year-old hanging from a clothing rod just a day after coming home in tears and asking to be taken out of school. Her parents promised her they would go to the school and talk with the principal, but the depression and helplessness became too much for her to wait out the weekend.
While Ashlynn may have felt alone in her fight against bullying and what some report to be life in a volatile home, hundreds of children under age 14 across the U.S. are acting on suicidal urges.
No one expected Ashlynn to take her own life, but mounting stress and anxiety pushed the little girl over the edge.
Little Ashlynn was bullied in fifth grade, and despite telling countless teachers and school officials, nothing was done to put an end to the taunting. In one distinct account, Ashlynn was bullied by girls who thought she looked like a boy after she got a haircut.
Other members of her family have also suffered with mental illness over the years. Stacy Conner, Ashlynn’s mother, has reportedly attempted suicide twice. These stressors proved to be too much for the young girl to handle.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collected death-rate data for child fatalities from 1999 to 2014.
While the number of deaths caused by homicide and fatal car crashes has decreased over the years, data reveals that the number of suicides in children between 10 and 14 has nearly doubled since 2007.
Initially having 0.9 suicide deaths for every 100,000 children in 2007, the number had increased to 2.1 deaths per 100,000 by 2014.
Once thought to be only a teenage problem, psychologist Dr. Lisa Boesky revealed that children can have their own reasons for committing suicide. Relationships with family members or fights with a child’s close friends could result in them wanting to harm themselves.
Warning signs of suicidal thoughts in teens can directly correlate to depression and severe mood swings, but in small children, ADHD is often present in those who follow through with suicidal urges.
Other warning signs to look for in children include sadness, irritability, and isolation from friends and family. Parents and adults should focus on the language their kids are using. Phrases such as “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I could go to sleep forever” are serious red flags.
If behaviors continue to escalate, it is important to reach out to a pediatrician or counselor.
While there is very little research available about childhood suicide, Boesky believes the CDC’s report could help pave the way for more studies.