Child Suicide: French Study Takes A Hard Look At A Heartbreaking Problem

A shocking suicide in central France has prompted authorities to look at why, how and when a growing number of young children decide to take their own lives. Rates are highest in South Korea, lowest in Finland.

Child Suicide: French Study Takes A Hard Look At A Heartbreaking Problem
Martine Laronche

PARIS - Alarmed by the recent tragedy of a nine-year-old girl who threw herself out of a fifth-story window near Lyon, French authorities are starting to think hard about the unthinkable: child suicide.

In February, shortly after the girl's death made headlines, France's youth deputy minister, Jeannette Bougrab, commissioned a study on the subject of child suicide. "A taboo is just starting to be broken," says Jeannette Bougrab. "Until now, nobody dared to confront this sad reality, preferring to deny it or else cover it up."

So how big is this problem in France? "Children increasingly think about killing themselves," says Boris Cyrulnik, the neuropsychiatrist who spearheaded the study. "In France, before the age of 13, 16% of children think death can be a solution to their problems with their family, school or friends."

Based on statistics and international literature on the issue, Cyrulnik believes that nowadays, the idea of death occurs to children earlier in life, with first attempts coming at an ever younger age.

In France, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people under the age of 25. And although cases are relatively rare, some of those suicides involve children under the age of 12. Annually, between 30 and 40 children in the five- to 12-year-old age group takes their own lives, according to the findings of the study released on Thursday.

Those numbers don't include accidental deaths that can be qualified as "suicide equivalents," according to the neuropsychiatrist. Many suicides could be hidden by dangerous behaviors, such as running across the street, or leaning out of a window. "An accident is not accidental when the behavior makes it likely," he says.

Children can become prisoners of their worries, becoming so absorbed by their internal world that they can't analyze outside information. These "suicide equivalents' are very difficult to count, but there could be about 100 cases a year, or even more, Cyrulnik concluded.

"A child who kills himself doesn't necessarily want death," he says. The notion of death evolves throughout childhood. Until the age of five, a child thinks of death as an amusing game, characterized by immobility. Between ages five and seven, it is an invisible place: grandmother has left for a far away place and won't be coming back for a very long time. It's only between the ages of seven and nine that death takes on its irreversible meaning.

Child suicide highest in South Korea

France isn't the only country with these troubling cases of child suicides. Incidents are on the rise in several countries – Russia, central European countries – and are more frequent in countries undergoing socioeconomic upheaval. "These tragedies reveal social disfunctionalities," says the neuropsychiatrist.

Starting at a very young age, children can be made particularly vulnerable by the environment in which they grow up. "Neuroscience has shown that infants who are placed in a deprived sensory situation acquire a neurological vulnerability and remain subject to their impulses," says Cyrulnik. The death of a parent, a mother's depression, a marital conflict or even a precarious social situation that upsets the parents can weaken the child's "emotional niche."

This biological vulnerability explains why feeling upset can lead to suicide. Unlike teenagers whose suicides are preceded by warning signs – such as withdrawal, depression, and aggression – children are governed by their impulses.

The trigger can come from school – a bad grade, a scolding. "Schools are becoming so selective and overinvested that it makes the child develop a sense of danger, alarm and exhaustion. One study found 60% to 80% of French children to be anxious in school," says Cyrulnik.

The researcher holds Finland as an example. There, children start school later, grades aren't given until the age of 10 or 11, and school workloads have become lighter. And over the past decade, suicide rates have fallen by 40%. On the other end of the spectrum is South Korea, where children are over-stimulated in school and given private tutors, showing stellar academic results, but also a very high suicide rate.

Cyrulnik says that identifying and helping families at risk, adapting schools to the child's rhythm, developing after-school activities and places where children can express themselves can help prevent children from going through with suicide.

Read the original article in French

Photo - Ulrica

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Running of the Bulls in Tafalla, northern Spain

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Здравейте!*

Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.

[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]


• Developing: Sudan leaders arrested amid military coup reports: Soldiers have arrested several members of Sudan's transitional government as well as civilian leaders, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has reportedly been put under house arrest, in what the information ministry called a military coup. Pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of the capital city Khartoum where there are reports of gunfire and clashes.

• Colombia's most wanted drug lord to be sent to U.S.: Colombia's most dangerous drug trafficker, known as Otoniel, was caught after a joint army, air force and police operation and faces extradition to the U.S. He led the country's largest criminal gang, and was on the U.S. most wanted list for years.

• Xi speech marks China's UN anniversary: China's President Xi Jinping marked the 50th anniversary of Beijing's entry into the United Nations with a speech calling for greater global cooperation, adding that issues like climate change, terrorism and cyber security needed multilateral solutions. Taiwan was not mentioned.

• German ISIS bride jailed for crimes against humanity: A German court has sentenced a German woman and former member of the Islamic State to 10 years in prison for letting a 5-year-old Yazidi enslaved girl die of thirst in Iraq. The case is one of the world's first trials to prosecute a war crime against the Yazidis.

• COVID update: The Beijing marathon scheduled next weekend has been postponed until further notice as China seeks to stamp out Delta variant outbreak and return to zero cases ahead of the Winter Olympics next February. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in Eastern Europe have surpassed the 20 million mark as the region fights against its worst outbreak since the pandemic started and vaccination efforts lag.

Goodbye, Gunther: U.S. actor James Michael Tyler, best known for his role as the barista Gunther on the TV show Friends, has died at 59 of prostate cancer.

• Sneakers record: A pair of Michael Jordan's white-and-red Nike shoes, which he wore during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, sold for $1.47 million — a new record price for sneakers at auction.


"The end of a boss," titles Colombian daily El Espectador, reporting on the arrest of drug lord Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, who had led Colombia's largest criminal gang and had been on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's most wanted list for years. He was captured in a raid and will be extradited to the U.S.



A Georgia man is being prosecuted for wire fraud after spending most of his business's COVID relief loan to buy one Pokémon trading card for $57,789.


How Thailand's "Lèse-Majesté" law is used to stifle all protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

👑 Thailand's Criminal Code "Lèse-Majesté" Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family. But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

🚨 The recent report "Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand," documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations." The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

💻 The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them. Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind.

➡️


"Children are going to die. People are going to starve."

— The United Nations warns that Afghanistan verges on a "total breakdown" as millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken by the international community. The agency calls for the release of frozen assets to avoid economic and social collapse, despite concerns over the Taliban government. A recent report said that about 97% of Afghanistan's population may sink below the poverty line, and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley warned that more than half of Afghanistan's population of 39 million were facing acute food insecurity and "marching to starvation" in comparison to 14 million two months ago.


Dutch cities have been secretly probing mosques since 2013

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talked to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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