CINCINNATI -- Child suicide is on the rise in America, and psychiatrist Daniel Nelson of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital thinks he knows why.
Maps of Hamilton County’s opioid overdoses lay over child suicide maps “almost exactly,” Nelson told The Washington Post.
He’s now working to corroborate his theory with coroners across the country that trauma from overdosing parents has contributed to a doubling of the suicide rate in children age 10 to 14 over the past decade.
“Early childhood trauma has been proven to set the stage for a lot of mental and physical illness. It’s a pretty simple scale,” Nelson said.
The Washington Post reports five children died from suicide in Hamilton County in 2015. That figure rose to 13 last year and has already reached nine in 2017. Nelson points out Price Hill as being particularly affected by this devastating trend. He said four students have died from suicide in the past two years at Western Hills and Dater high schools.
“I’m thinking if I live in a community where my friends’ parents are dying, if I’m in a class of 25 with 15 families challenged by addiction, even if my family isn’t directly challenged, I suddenly become affected,” Nelson said. “Kids are coming in with all these traumatic experiences. Resources are stretched. Teachers aren’t able to teach the same. It could be a contagion effect in a community.”
In January, 8-year-old Gabriel Taye hanged himself following what the boys’ family called bullying at Carson Elementary School. That family recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Cincinnati Public Schools.
One of Nelson’s patients, 19-year-old Samantha Potter, said she tried to kill herself twice after losing her father to suicide. She worries about cultural depiction of suicide like Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” which could spread suicidal thoughts among vulnerable teens.
She started the group Rob’s Kids to help other kids process their feelings and trauma in a healthy way rather than resorting to suicide.
“Suicide notes, calls for help started falling out of my locker,” Potter said. “Some said, ‘I have pains in my chest from anxiety.’ Others would tell me they were cutting themselves. Some would just say, ‘So-and-so needs a friend.’ ”
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