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In Pierre-Bénite (69), a 9-year-old girl who had diabetes ended her life this week by throwing herself on the 5th floor. Was she aware of the consequences of her act? What signs should alert parents to avoid these dramas? Dr. Stéphane Clerget, child psychiatrist, answers our questions. (News from 21/01/11)
Is child suicide an exceptional phenomenon?
- Dr. Stéphane Clerget: This remains very rare and especially very difficult to evaluate. There are about a dozen per year but, on the other hand, we can not estimate the number of suicide attempts that are not necessarily reported. The child will not necessarily talk about it and say that he hurt himself on purpose.
At what age is a child aware of death?
- S.C .: Before age 5, for a child, death is a reversible absence. Between 5 and 8 years old, what is dead is insensitive and does not move. From the age of 8, the child begins to consider death as irreversible. But today, children are much less confronted with real death than formerly when one attended the funeral in family and where one saw dead animals in the countryside. In our time, they face virtual deaths whether on television, in movies or in video games. The children are in a big blur that favors the difficulty of perceiving the reality of death and its irrevocable nature.
Was this little girl aware that she was going to die throwing herself out the window?
- S.C .: One can be aware of his act but not the consequences. One may want to die without making suicide attempts and one can throw oneself out the window without wanting to die and without being aware of what that means. Maybe she did that to escape a painful situation and hoped it would work out.