Culture Post: Preschoolers with Depression at Greater Risk of Suicide During Adolescence

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

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.

“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.

Source: MedicalXpress

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[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.

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