My 8-year-old says he wants to drown himself. What do I do?


I have an 8-year-old with behavioral issues. Several times he has said he wants to drown himself. What do I do?


Assuming that the statements are not hyperbole, such as indicating embarrassment by saying "I wish I were dead," then you have a problem on your hand that cannot be ignored. It is not typical for a child to express suicidal thoughts. Something is majorly wrong and you need to seek help immediately.

You stated that your child has behavioral problems, but without details, it is impossible to recommend a course of action. What I'm most concerned about is the possibility that he has been placed on an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor), such as Paxil, Zoloft, or Prozac. These products are anti-depressants and are sometimes given in an attempt to stabilize moods. Except for Prozac, they are NOT approved by the FDA for use with children under 18. One of the reasons for the lack of approval is the use of these products has been linked to increased suicidal thoughts in children -- doubling the rate from 2% to 4%.

Too often, I have been finding parents willing to use drugs to compensate for poor child-rearing practices. There are children with psychological problems that might require drugs, but the vast majority of cases can be handled with proper parenting techniques. You might have to work harder at it than your neighbor down the street, but it can be done and it generally has better long-term results because the child learns to manage himself without reliance on drugs.

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