Children of Suicide Are More Likely to Kill Themselves

Suzanne Murray

suicide prevention sign
Flickr photo by Smath
Poet Sylvia Plath's son Nicholas Hughes was just a baby when his mother took her own life, but last year at the age of 47, he too killed himself. (Hughes' stepmother also killed herself when he was just 7.)

After Plath killed herself, her husband Ted Hughes tried to protect his kids from their mother's fate -- he burned the last volume of her journals and waited years to tell his children the details of her suicide.

But maybe there's nothing he could've done to save his son. New research, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, shows that children who lost a parent to suicide are more likely to die the same way.

Researchers found that Swedes who were children or adolescents when a parent took his or her own life had a three-fold increased risk of dying by suicide themselves. The higher risk wasn't present when parental suicide took place when children were young adults (18-25).

And although the risk of suicide went up for children of people who had taken their own lives, suicide itself is still a relatively rare event, the study's author Holly Wilcox of Johns Hopkins Children's Center told CNN. In the United States, between 7,000 and 12,000 children lose a parent to suicide each year.

If a parent commits suicide while a child is young, Wilcox says, the surviving parent should be more sensitive to any psychiatric problems that come up.

Read More