Preschoolers with Depression at Greater Risk of Suicide During Adolescence

The following is excerpted from an online article posted by HealthDay.

Preschoolers with clinical depression are more likely than their peers to have attempted suicide or to have had thoughts of killing themselves by age 12, according to a new study from researchers at Washington University in St. Louis.

The findings, published recently in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, suggest that preschoolers—children ages 3 to 6—with depression would benefit from initial and ongoing mental health screenings and behavioral interventions.

The study builds on two decades of research led by Joan L. Luby, MD, the university’s Samuel and Mae S. Ludwig Professor of Child Psychiatry. Her work has established that children as young as age 3 experience clinical depression.

“It is not a transient phenomenon but a very real condition that needs to be identified and addressed as early as possible,” said Luby, the study’s senior co-author and the director of Washington University School of Medicine’s Early Emotional Development Program.

“Left untreated, many children continue to experience depression later in childhood and into adulthood. Being clinically depressed is a very strong predictor of having suicidal thoughts and behaviors, or attempting suicide, during adolescence.”

For the new study, the researchers evaluated 137 children, ages 8 to 12, who met the criteria for “preschool-onset major depressive disorder,” meaning they were diagnosed with depression between the ages of 3 to 6 years while participating in Luby’s earlier studies. The kids’ suicidal thoughts and behaviors were identified by caregivers or self-reported by the preteens during age-appropriate diagnostic interviews with researchers.

For comparison, the researchers also examined 53 peers in the same age group who did not have depression. These children also were evaluated by Luby’s team when they were ages 4 to 6 years, and again when they were ages 8 to 12.

The researchers found that preadolescents who had experienced preschool-onset depression were 6.14 times more likely to experience a desire to kill themselves and 8.03 times more likely to have made a suicide attempt by age 12, compared with preadolescents who did not experience preschool depression.

“Our findings emphasize the need for early interventions,” Luby said. “The earlier, the better because if we can help children with depression alter the way they process their emotions, we can help minimize or eliminate the depression and reduce or prevent recurrent episodes later in life.”

Source: MedicalXpress

Help us reach the next generation of families

Back to Top

[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on and Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

  • About HomeWord

    HomeWord helps families succeed by creating Biblical resources that build strong marriages, confident parents, empowered kids and healthy leaders. Founded by Jim Burns, HomeWord seeks to advance the work of God in the world by educating, equipping, and encouraging parents and churches. Learn More »

  • Support Our Mission

    HomeWord is non-profit, donor supported ministry. If you would like to partner with HomeWord in our effort to help more parents and families you can make a donation. Your investment will allow us to expand this ministry by offering more resources to families and churches in need.

  • Contact Information

    • HomeWord
      PO Box 1600
      San Juan Capistrano, CA

    • Send us an email

    • 800-397-9725
      (M-F: 8:30am-5pm PST)