It is hard to imagine, but the Detroit Free Press reports that a 7-year-old Detroit boy is dead from an apparent suicide. And the boy’s suicide appears to be a clear sign of the times.
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The boy’s 14-year-old sister found him hanging from a bunk bed with a belt tied around his neck. She alerted her mother and called 911. Then the Mom took the son down with the assistance of a neighbor.
Police are still investigating the child’s death, but they say that the cause of death is likely as it appeared: a suicide. Autopsy results are pending, according to the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office.
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The boy, who has not been named, was reportedly bullied at school and was also particularly troubled over his parent’s separation. Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. said that the boy had told his parents that he wanted to harm himself. The Mother also told police that the child was being counseled by the family’s pastor.
“It’s just a tragedy on so many levels,” Chief Godbee Jr. said Thursday, calling the situation “unfathomable.”
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As unfathomable as it may be that a young child can actually have the wherewithal to carry out such a horrible act, it is something that all parents should take very seriously:
Experts say children that young may not understand the finality of death, but they need to be taken seriously when signs of depression arise.
“Any time a child makes a threat or engages in talking about suicide, it should always be taken seriously,” said Polly Gipson, a child psychologist at the University of Michigan and at U-M’s Center for the Child and the Family.
“We shouldn’t think that because a child is a child, there’s no way (he or she) can act on those behaviors.”
In December, Gov. Rick Snyder (R-Mich) signed anti-bullying legislation. Last fall, the Detroit City Council approved an ordinance that makes bullying children in person or online a misdemeanor.
A council member was particularly upset by the tragedy:
Detroit City Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins, who sponsored the ordinance, said the boy’s apparent suicide shows the need for a stronger response to such mistreatment.
“For a 7-year-old to lose his life in any form is heartbreaking. But to imagine a child that young, who is so sad, that believes his only option is to do this? Heartbreaking is not a strong enough word,” she said.
In case you think that this 7-year-old’s case is an exception to the rule, please consider some figures cited by the Detroit Free Press:
In 2010, a medical examiner ruled the death of a 6-year-old girl in Oregon a suicide, according to news reports, which say the girl hung herself after her mother sent her to her room.
Of the 36,951 suicides recorded in the U.S. in 2009 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 265 involved children ages 5-14.
Some may also think that today’s kids are “soft” or that they get upset over the “smallest things,” but of the 265 kids who took their own lives in 2009, we truly cannot simplify these deaths as issues of mental and emotional toughness.
With young people being beaten over “Twitter beefs” and having their brutal attacks posted on WorldStarHipHop, we have to consider that bullying and the emotional trauma that comes afterward is ratcheted up several hundred decimals. (Or can be re-tweeted to the entire school several hundred — or thousand — times)
This 7-year-old’s death is not the time for parents and those of us older than the age of 30 to beat our chest over the toughness of our childhoods. Instead, we have to take child bullying and depression very seriously so that another 7-year-old will not feel that he is not “tough enough” to enjoy his precious young life.