23 answers

My 7 Year Old Says He Wants to Die!

How can a 7 year old be depressed? He is very loved and cared for. Doesn't need or want for anything. Yet he will say, "I hate myself", "I wish I could die" or "I wish I never existed." I don't know how to react. I have tried telling him how much I love him in a serious way and telling him sad we would all be if he would die or if he never existed. I've also tried acting nonchalant about it and just saying "Well I sure do love you" and then tickling him until he laughs. I've also told him to stop saying those things. My husband (his stepfather) has told me that he thinks it's all for attention, but he has been saying this sort of thing for over a year now. I am very worried that if I ignore it something terrible may happen. I have tried to take him to counselors twice. He would not even acknowledge they were in the room. The first lady said he wasn't ready for counseling, the second (a man) told me I need parenting classes! Otherwise, he is a bright, funny, loving little boy, but this has me worried sick. Has anyone else ever experienced this? Please help.

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So What Happened?™

I want to thank everyone who responded to my email. It really made me feel a lot better to hear that other people have gone thru the same thing. I was feeling pretty alone in my situation. I haven't really wanted to tell any of friends for fear he would be labeled as "wierd".
To answer a few questions, I have been divorced for 3 years from his natural father. His Dad does see him every other weekend and talks to him every night on the phone. I also have a 4 year old boy who really never knew what it was like to have his father in the house full-time. I married a man with 3 teens in April of 2006. We have moved into their home and are adding a bedroom and bath. The oldest of these children went away to college this fall, so we now have a 17 yr old boy, a 15 yr old girl and my 2 little boys. I really couldn't ask for the kids to be any better to one another. The older 2 are very patient and understanding of the younger 2. The younger 2 really enjoy having live-in playmates. All of this dying talk started long before we were married. My husband is really great with my boys, but he is pretty "old school" when it comes to displine. We have pretty much agreed that he will discipline his 2 and I will discipline mine (with discussion and advice allowed from both parents in each individual case.)
I am going to talk to his teacher and his school counselor when school goes back into session. From what I have gathered so far this year, he is at his happiest at school. I would like for his teacher to know my concerns, so she can watch for anything unusual. I will continue to try to find a counselor that he will talk to. Thank you all and I will keep you all updated. Also, I would still like to hear any suggestions.

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This must be tough. I think you should be persistant with therapy. Have you tried Wake Forest Child Guidance? If he is saying he doesnt like himself, etc maybe he is not being accepted by his peers at school. The teacher might be able to shed some light on his interactions with other kids.

hi C.
is he an only child? sometimes being an only child strikes a child to act like that. does he like his step-father? and is his really father in his life. it could be a number of things. my daughter went though the same things when my father and i separated, what i did was just continued to show love and cared for her just like i always had. i never did try the conseling thing. but i think that you are doing the right thing.

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Hey C.,
I'm curious how you responded the first time he said that. I'm sure you were shocked and maybe went overboard in your reaction. I'm not saying that going overboard was a bad thing, we ALL do it in those situations. I'm wondering if he's trying to illicit that same reaction again for the attention. Telling him you love him is a great way to overcome that. Also let him know that if he dies, everything in his life is done. Talk to him about things he wants to do in the summer, vacations he wants to go on, jobs he wants to hold...then show him, gently, that all those hopes and dreams would be gone. From some of the research that I've seen with children, they all go through a phase where they are interested in death. How they handle that phase is different. My daughter went through it when she was 5 and she said it a few times, simply to be dramatic. We sat her down and talked to her about the future and she couldn't stop talking about how excited she was to swim when the pool re-opened. I asked her how she would feel about never swimming in the pool again. She got VERY mad at me about it. I then explained to her that if she died, she wouldn't get to. This really caused her to think about things. We also told her how many people would be heartbroken about her being gone (we went through EVERYONE, friends, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.). She was very quiet for the rest of the day and hasn't brought it up since. This is also a great time to start doing some simple goal setting with your son. See what sports or games he'd like to do, things he'd like to learn. I homeschool and there is A LOT of information and help on the web for any parent to find creative things for their children. You'd be surprised how keeping your children busy with a little craft changes their mood for the entire day! I hope that helps you and keep in mind, if you keep him talking about great things in his future, he'll be thinking about living.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi C.,

My son said it a few times (he's 5) and I would sit down and ask him why he feels that way. Usually, it's because someone hurt his feelings or he couldn't figure something out. Most of the time with a few minutes talking, I can get him to stop. One time, he said he saw it on TV. The smarter the child, the more elaborate way they look for attention. Remind him of how much you'd miss him if he were gone. Keep telling him how much you love him. Tell him how special he is to you and that he's lucky to have so many people who love and care for him. Watch who he is playing with and how they talk to him and each other. Some kids will let stuff roll off thier backs, some will take everything to heart.

Good luck!!

1 mom found this helpful

My little boy will be 7 in March and lately he has been very focused on death/dying. He has only once said anything similar to your little boy, but it had me just as worried. He told me that he didn't deserve to live. It was all in a tantrum and I really believe it was for the shock value. He is also very bright and happy and I think that at this age they just don't understand what death truely is, but are a little fascinated by it. My husband have talked to him about it and told him how serious dying is and that it is not ok to joke about or make threats about and for now he seems to be doing good. I guess I don't really have much more advice than that, I just wanted you to know that your little boy is not the only one talking about death and maybe it is just a phase that they go through. Good luck.

i am one of those children. i found out at 40 something i was bipolar. mood swings were prominant all my life. try a third counselor and a forth if neccesary. your instincts are right. dont give up until you get help.

I am a mother to an 11 yr. old son, who was diagnosed with depression and ADHD years ago, and recently anxiety attacks also. I, too, have clinical depression and can relate to how that feels first as a parent, but also as a child myself.
First, i wanna say, that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. No parent wants to ever see their child in pain, whether physical or emotional.
The first thing i would say is, please, PLEASE, take this child seriously. If there's anything I could say it would be that. As young or naive as you or your husband may think he is, i've learned and experienced that the pain is very real still. There's a good chance that he doesn't even know how or why he feels this way, so it just comes out when he says he doesn't want to live. I tried to commit suicide as a teenager 3 different times. Looking back, i think if my parents had of gotten me the help i so desperately needed, that i might not of been there. I am not at all belittling you or your parenting. I know you have tried to get him some help. I would just say - don't give up.
The counselor we finally found for my son started out by playing board games with him - having fun while getting to know him, so he started looking forward to going. He thought she was really cool. There are good ones out there, unfortunately sometimes you have to keep looking. And please, don't ever think you are a bad parent. That really makes me mad that counselor had the nerve to say that to you. Honestly, who couldn't use parenting classes, ya know? Hindsight's always 20/20.
One good book that helped me learn about what my son needs from me is "The Five Love Languages of Children". It helped me to see how my son communicates his love and what he needs to feel loved and wanted. His "language" was quality time and positive affirmation. It didn't matter what we got him, it was that one on one time that he craved. When we started to do that, he slowly started opening up more about things, and we tried to identify them together, and come up with the best solution possible.
There are many times I honestly don't know what to say, and I have to tell him, "We will have to ask the counselor about that, because Mommy just doesn't know", and he is cool with that.
Sometimes, i think our son does "milk it" though. His feelings are real, but if he's getting attention from it, even negative attention, that made him think that's what he had to do to get it. And i honestly believe some children need more attention than others. My oldest definitely does. It can be exhausting. I am just hoping through my actions and in helping him help himself, he will learn how to live a healthy and happy life while dealing with depression. Because I wasn't. And i learned such a hard, hard way.
My best wishes to you as you deal with this. Don't give up. You're very brave for asking about this. So many don't, and those many times are the kids that fall through the cracks.

I could have written your question myself, but in regards to my 5 year old boy. Right now I'm waiting till he says something like that again so I can pay better attention to what happend just before he says it. I've got his teacher watching out also. He's going to see the school counselor for some group playtime to try and determine if there is something seriously wrong. I wish I had an answer for you, but I'll be watching the responses to your questions to see if someone else does!

My 7 year old just told me the same thing, he said "I hate my life, and I want to die." Why! What happened?! He told me the kids at his school are picking on him. Im going up there tomorrow to talk with his school counselor and teacher about this. There are too many cases or kids taking their lives from being picked on in school. My advice, don't give up. I don't care what anyone says, they need to know that they can come to you and that they are loved. I would take a child that is trying to get my attention over a dead child anyday!

My son does the same thing sometimes. I think the difference here is that he has lived with an abusive father. I know that my son still blames himself for his father and I not being together (he was three when I left). Another thing that I have been told has something to do with his drastic mood swings is the fact that he is ADD. Since he has been put on meds for that the only time he has really bed emotional swings is when the meds are out of his system. I like to call it a withdrawl from the drugs. I would try to talk to your son when he is happy and see if he will be willing to talk to someone to help him get through his feelings. Boys have such a hard time expressing emotion most times anyway and having someone he can trust to talk to would help. It may take some time to find just the right counselor for him but in the end it will be worth it for your son. Take the time to explain to him that he is not being punished for his feelings but you want to help him understand how to deal with them. Some of it may be that he is approaching that time in his life where parents are "yucky" and dont know what they are talking about too.

Good luck! I know how much it can hurt to hear your little man say these things.

I don;t know what I can add as far as advice goes , but I will try. My first thoughts of suicide occurred when I was 8 years old. I went as far as to take an entire bottle of tylenol. my mom took me to a mental health provider who put me on an antidepressant. after a few months I stopped taking them because I stopped exhibiting symtoms. I had problems with self mutilation starting at 12 years old. this went unnoticed by my parents for one year. at 13 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My parents did all of the right things. They took me to the doctor when they noticed a problem. unfortunately I have a disease. it has been very hard on my family, but with their support I manage. the most you as a parent can do is to pay attention and not dismiss something so serious. never assume that this is an act to gain attention. if someone wants your attention so badly that they would consider saying this then they probably need your attention. it's a cry for help! keep trying to get him into therapy, I was fortunate enough to find a great therapist who had all sorts of toys and candy in her office. find one who works for him. and lastly just make sure to let him know daily that you love him and you are willing to help him in any way that you can. he probably already knows this but it never hurts to be reminded.

You were correct in going to counseling. The man you went to sounds like an idiot my family and I had gone to for family counseling with my teenager. Try another counselor. 7 year olds do not say for over a year they want to die "just for attention". And your husband needs to understand that. I have worked in a school with children for 12 years and 7 year olds DO get depressed. go to another counselor. Maybe a Pastoral Counseling Service would help. If you are in the Norfolk area, there is a Pastoral Counseling service on Colonial Ave (I think that is the road), it is called Tidewater Pasorial Counseling Services (I think). My family and I started there when my daughter was in 5th grade. They do play therapy and family counseling and are very nice (or were years ago when we went). Also, there is a wonderful, grandma type counselor we more recently went to when my daughter was a teenager (this was about 4 years ago) and her name was Doctor Dingman. Her office had been on Little Creek Road but I think she as since moved. She was absolutely wonderful. Kind, but firm when needed, good with my husband and myself and wonderful with my daughter. If you are military, she accepted the military insurance. Have you spoke with your son's guidance counselor at school? Or has your son exhibited any of these desires to die or other behaviour at school that his teacher/aides have witnessed? How long ago did you divorce his father and is his biological father active in his life? these are all questions I am sure a counselor will ask. It is emotionally hard when your child is crying for help and you feel helpless (I know. Been there, but it does get better. Really it does). Good luck and you and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers. If you need to talk, feel free to write.

C. first of all if a 7 year old is saying he want to die then i suggest you look into it further. Although it might be something going on in his life that he is not telling you. maybe a bully at school, or a family member. It could be a number of things. keep a close eye out and you will fine your answer.

This must be tough. I think you should be persistant with therapy. Have you tried Wake Forest Child Guidance? If he is saying he doesnt like himself, etc maybe he is not being accepted by his peers at school. The teacher might be able to shed some light on his interactions with other kids.

I was a teacher for 8 years and depression is very prevalent for children usually it goes undiagnosed due to the same reaction as your husband. Every year I had atleast 1 or 2 students who were depressed. You need to quickly get your son to counseling with a therapist who specializes in working with children! Social Services can help direct you if financing is a problem. Depression gets worse over time when it goes untreated. Boys more often than girls commit suicide because as they get older they are less likely to talk about their feelings because that is viewed as being weak. Please don't ignore his pleads for help.

My almost 7 year old sometimes says he hates himself as well. Usually these kind of things come out only when he is very angry or is being punished for negative behavior. He has even slapped his own self in the face while having a temper tantrum! I was concerned about his anger and sadness so we decided to see a counselor. She said most of this kind of behavior is purely for attention getting. I think you are doing the right thing by just telling him you love him. We do the same and sometimes ignore. I have actually found the ignoring works better. I know how worrisome this is. It makes me cry sometimes wondering if I've done something wrong or something to hurt his self-esteem. I think he is just pushing his boundaries. He is an extremely intelligent child, as I'm sure yours is. I would certainly seek out the help of a counselor that you and your son both like. It will be worth it. Hang in there!

hi C.
is he an only child? sometimes being an only child strikes a child to act like that. does he like his step-father? and is his really father in his life. it could be a number of things. my daughter went though the same things when my father and i separated, what i did was just continued to show love and cared for her just like i always had. i never did try the conseling thing. but i think that you are doing the right thing.

My 8 year old has been so sad too.. His Dad and I don't know why. We are waiting on a response from Doc who told us he would give us a referral. My son is funny, very nice, sweet and loving as well. Don't understand the sadness. Let me know if you hear anything! It pains me to hear him-I KNOW how this feels-at a loss!

Dear C.,
Working as a nurse in a pediatric office, we saw children diagnosed w/ depression more often than I would like to think about. Children experience the same emotions as adults, but don't have the coping mechanisms necessary to sort through and deal w/ the emotions. It's possible that he may be discouraged &/or bullied at school. You mentioned a step-father, but nothing about his natural father. It's possible that depending on the relationship dynamics of the situation that he's just confused and, again, not sure how to express himself. With all of that being said, it could be a ploy for attention, but in my experience, strong feelings such as the ones he's expressed are more likely caused by an underlying problem. The key is to get to the root of the problem and work on ways to fix it or help him understand. It's also good to voice and show your love in very positive ways and continue to boost his self-esteem. He may not be ready for counseling or he may not be willing to open up to a total stranger. You may want to consider having him talk w/ his regular pediatrician without you present, especially if he has a good relationship w/ that person. As w/ adults, it's easier for kids to talk to someone they already know and trust. Hope some of this helps. Good luck!

I have recently experiencd the same thing,, with one exception that I see, my son was saying it in school. The end result came that he was being picked on in school, and when he tried defending himself, he was the one that got caught, not the other kid. Well after getting in trouble for this, he gave up and started saying the same things that you mentioned. Has he been getting picked on or bullied either in school, or in the neighborhood? This is something that could be making him feel distressed like this, but him not sure how to either deal with it or afraid to. I hope not, and will keep you in my thoughts. IM or write if I can further help. ____@____.com

My heart goes out to you. My daughter is now 15 but echoed the same things as your son for 10 yrs. This has been hell year but we finally got a dianosis of bipolar. It is not severe but enough to have caused her to want to die most of her life. It is just by prayer and the grace of God that I have my girl with me now. She is on a mood stabilizer medication and is doing great! Find a good doctor, or someone to take you seriously! Insist on an evaluation and push until you get the help you need to get to the bottom of his depression. I reccomend a web site called a healty place to explore mental health conditions and medications. Be informed. Knowledge is power! The more you know the less frightened you are.

I have a 9 year old who used to do that for some reason. I did the same thing you are doing... reminded him that I love him - that his father loves him and that we'd all be sad if he died or were never here. I also explained to him that suicide is a very selfish thing to do. That may seem a little harsh, but I did my best to make him understand the impact his action would have on his brothers and his family so that he would hopefully not focus just on his own feelings. In my case, he had been through a traumatic situation earlier in his life (he witnessed an attack on me by a rapist), so I thought it was a part of possible post traumatic stress syndrome. He got some counseling with a pediatric counselor who did play therapy with him and I haven't heard any thoughts such as this in a couple of years. Hang in there!! Try to find a therapist who works ONLY with children and does play therapy. I found that to be extremely helpful for my son.

Well, it's definitely getting him attention. What kid doesn't want attention? Like you, I would be concerned and ask why he thinks it would be better if he weren't around. He probably won't have a legitamate excuse and from there you can assess that he's just fishing for attention. My daughter does that all the time and she's 10. She seems to think that we'll feel sorry for her. I told her to get over it cause the only thing we'll feel for her is pride for doing her best and sadness if she was ever out of our lives. Children KNOW how to work their parents and I'm guessing this tactic works for him...with YOU! My boy does that to his father and it works every time but when I cast him a hairy-side eye he just smirks and sticks his tongue out. Don't be too concerned just yet. He's putting his feelers out to see who's going to fall for his manipulating wys. Some kids are rotten, some are down trodden and some kid around to get under our skins. Relax, we're parents remember. They're supposed to mess with our emotions. Why do you think our parents love them sooo much!!

Since counseling isn't necessarily a bad thing (whether he is indeed depressed or just seeking attention) then I'd keep taking him to a new counselor til you find one he likes and can talk with. Second opinions aren't always good enough. Sometimes tenth opinions aren't good enough.

I would look at a couple of things. Is he hearing those words at home, in daycare, on cartoons,etc? I personally have had to stop letting my 5 year old watch Fairly Odd Parents because of disturbances. Then I'd observe your child's relationship with his stepfather. How long has he been in your son's life? He may be reacting to your husband.And if your husband is right, then your son obviously needs that attention. Balancing motherhood with marriage is very demanding. But I believe any good mother will always put her child first. His future weighs on you. Any good man, will understand!

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