Address self-harm and suicide at a young age

Bullets And Crayons

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Suicide is a gruesome, yet sadly relevant topic in our current society that isn’t addressed enough. Educators are attempting to nip it in the bud by reprimanding children who simply show basic knowledge of the idea of a gun.

According to local15tv.com, 5-year-old Elizabeth was forced by school officials at E.R. Dickson Elementary school in Mobile, Ala. to sign a contract promising to not commit suicide or homicide after she “drew something that resembled a gun” and “pointed a crayon at another student and said ‘pew pew.’ ”

Elizabeth’s mother, Rebecca, did not provide a last name and was enraged that school officials forced her daughter to sign a contract without her knowledge.

Whether the young girl even knew of the concept of “suicide” or the real consequences of it before the incident is improbable, with the contract most likely doing absolutely nothing for the child.

“This isn’t right. She’s five years old,” Rebecca said. “Most of the words on (the contract), she’s never heard in her life.”

Not only was the signing of the contract unnecessary, but also illegal without parental consent, since the girl is a minor.

“I’m sure she doesn’t want that person dead or anything, she was just playing,” said undeclared freshman Jonothan Mayorga said. “Making a 5-year-old sign a contract is unnecessary.”

Though no one wants to think about it, suicide and homicide among youths is a serious problem.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death among youths between the ages of 10 and 24 in the United States. Moreover, homicide is the leading cause of death for the same age group in the U.S.

The reality remains that children have committed suicide before, or if not, many have grown up to commit at an older age, with overall suicide rates in America being the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The thought of discussing the wicked concept of suicide to young, innocent children is not something most parents or educators get excited about. Potentially, it could backfire and corrupt the children’s minds with gruesome images and ideas instead.

“My child interrupted us and said, ‘What is suicide, Mommy? Daddy, what is suicide?’ ” Rebecca said. “As a parent, that’s not right. I’m the one who should be able to talk to my daughter and not have someone else mention words like this in front of her at all.”

Parents hold more rights than others, even educators, when it comes to deciding the education of their children. However, self-harm and suicide are topics that educators should be able to discuss without the need for parental consent, considering they have become such huge issues. However, there are people who believe that if the seriousness of self-harm is taught, suicide will be out of mind.

“It’s not a ‘grown-up’ topic … It’s usually one most adults try to avoid exposing kids to, even though it’s a part of life. If the topic of suicide isn’t discussed with kids, they’ll grow older and not be able to know how to deal with it when it comes.”

— English freshman Joy Ewere, on the importance of teaching children about death

Lack of communication and understanding about these issues can become very dangerous for both children and teens. Suicide awareness in particular could potentially save thousands of lives.

English freshman Joy Ewere said she believes a direct approach would be beneficial for youths.

“It’s not a ‘grown-up’ topic. I think it’s considered as one because of the perception death has. It’s usually one most adults try to avoid exposing kids to, even though it’s a part of life,” Ewere said. “If the topic of suicide isn’t discussed with kids, they’ll grow older and not be able to know how to deal with it when it comes. It’s imperative that kids learn about it.”

Although it is mainly adults and teenagers who attempt suicide, the sense of loneliness and me-against-the-world mentality among children is not necessarily brought upon by adulthood, but is rooted in the early stages childhood in forms such as bullying and sibling jealousy.

Math freshman Adelaide Joralemon said she believes suicide should be addressed before adulthood.

“(Children) should be taught that violence is not okay, and that there is a big difference between what is on screen and what is real,” Joralemon said. 

In order to properly address the issue of suicide in our society, it must be done at an early age through the encouragement of non-violence and self-love, as well as the creation of safe environments for children and an emphasis on the fact that they are not alone.

Growing up in a world plagued by bullying, unattainable social expectations and discrimination can be an emotionally difficult experience for children and young teens. Perhaps if a stable mentality were more encouraged from the very start, children could remember to love themselves as easily as they can remember the alphabet.

“Kids should grow up learning that suicide is murder of the self and not the answer to pain,” Joralemon said. “Everyone should grow up knowing that they have loved ones to rely on.”

Opinion columnist Natalia Marfil is a creative writing freshman and may be reached at [email protected]


  • Part of the problem is, a newspaper thing (like not printing the names of rape victims) against doing a story about a suicide if it is done in private by a private citizen. There is one contributing factor to the underlying emotions, which I feel Facebook could help solve: see attention-facebook.com

  • How can we encourage non-violence when we are flooded with images of violence (TV, radio,internet, games, war) virtually every waking hour? Those images move into and permeate our dreams, as well, basically help shape our being. We can’t not participate in the world.
    You suggest that “stable mentality” should be encouraged from the start. How would you suggest that happen? Parents who can, do. Parents who cannot, but want to, do the best they can. Those that would do harm are usually identified after it’s too late. We are not robots.
    Mental illness is a real physical illness. It is so stigmatized in our culture that seeking help, even early intervention, is still perceived as weakness (BTW – we are all weak) and even our health insurance marks us as risky. Children do not have a filter and will pick on those that are “different,” thus exacerbating a problem. Having “special accommodations” in school can sometimes fail to help a student’s development, because we are still people dealing with people and we all have our shortcomings, even with the best of intentions.
    Is that to say we shouldn’t try? No. “We” need to talk about not just the symptoms (suicide, homocide, pretend crayon guns), but the roots of the issue.

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