BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – For the second time in a month, a family in our viewing area is dealing losing a 9 year old to suicide.
Last month it was Maddie Whitsett in Birmingham. Last week it was McKenzie Adams in Linden.
We spoke with one Birmingham psychiatrist who shared signs you should be on the lookout for in your child’s behavior.
Dr. Jospeh Lucas with Grayson & Associates said he’s seen an increase in the number of children coming to him with suicidal thoughts.
He said the recent deaths of those two young girls should be an important reminder for parents to talk to their children.
“The suicide rate is going up and we have to do something about this,” he said.
Within the last month, the two 9-year-old girls committed suicide after families said the girls were bullied at school.
Family and friends of Maddie have raised awareness of mental health and anti-bullying since her death. Dr. Lucas said the youngest child he’s worked with who had suicidal thoughts was just 6 years old.
“It’s terrible,” he said. “I mean you think childhood ought to be fun and enjoyable, but it’s not all the time. It’s not all fun and games.”
He said it’s not often your child will come to you to tell you about their emotions. So it’s important you go to them.
“Because if you don’t, the things they’re thinking will get a lot bigger, a lot tougher and will feel a whole lot more difficult to deal with,” said Dr. Lucas.
A few things Dr. Lucas said to look out for in your child: Lack of sleep, a change in school performance and a change in temperament.
“I feel sad a lot of the time, I feel like I’m a worthless person. I feel like there’s no hope for me, I feel like nobody likes me,” said Dr. Lucas.
Those feelings of hopelessness are feelings Maddie and McKenzie’s families now want to bring attention to in order to prevent another family from this heartbreak.
“For most people who attempt suicide, it’s a very temporary situation that led to it, and that temporary situation will change. So if you can get them through that period with some counseling, and with some time, and with some tools, they’ll get better,” he said.
Dr. Lucas suggested children stay active to divert their attention from the problem.
“One of the things that I want parents to understand is that just talking about suicide will not make your child attempt suicide. Sometimes, it’s exactly the conversation you need to have because they are holding it in, they’re feeling these things, they’re thinking these things, and they’re relieved somebody wants to ask them questions,” said Dr. Lucas.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is also an excellent tool. Its number is 1-800-273-8255.