Suicide prevention, young children, nursing




Christina Quick, DNP, APRN, CPNP-ACPC


In 2017, 522 young children ages 5-14 died from intentional self-harm (suicide) in the United States. In comparison, only 322 children ages 5-14 died from homicide and 855 from motor vehicle accidents (Kochanek, Murphy, Xu, & Arias, 2017). Preadolescent suicide represents the ninth leading cause of death among children ages 5-11 years of age, but is significantly under researched (Ayer, Colpe, Pearson, Rooney, & Murphy, 2020). Suicidal ideation (SI) and behaviors are not limited to late adolescents and adults; both can develop early in life and have detrimental effects on early childhood, placing them at risk for continued SI in later childhood and for SI and attempts in adulthood (Ayer, Colpe, Pearson, Rooney, & Murphy, 2020). Proactive identification of young children at risk and implementation of preventative care strategies are imperative in reducing the risk of intentional self-harm. Nurses encounter children in various settings, including school, mental health facilities, emergency rooms, and family practice providing a vital opportunity to assess for SI and behaviors in young children. The purpose of this paper is to discuss causes, warning signs, and risk factors for suicide in young children and to then identify evidence-based suicide prevention strategies and the implications for nursing practice and future research.