Family Moves Can Increase Teen Suicide Risk

| by Dr Gwenn
We all know that moving is stressful on a family. As if the logistics of the move itself are not overwhelming enough, there's the adjustment to a new area complete with laying down new roots and establishing a new social structure. This is tough for adults as well as kids of all ages.

Kids are typically thought of as being rather pliable and flexible when it comes to new situations. With time, parents and experts alike used to think that kids will adjust to a move. However, a new study rocks that theory to it's core and suggests otherwise in a very significant way.

As reported by multiple news outlets, a Danish study has released data that suggest that kids whose families move a great deal are at high risk for committing suicide.

As summarized in US News and World Report, researchers "were able to get information on all children born in Denmark between 1978 and 1995. Hospital records showed that 4,160 of those children attempted suicide between 11 and 17 years of age, and 79 of those attempts ended in a completed suicide." The data showed a "dose-response" meaning that the more moves a family had gone through the more likely the risk of suicide.

Other important suicide risk factors identified included a family history of suicide and other psychiatric issues.

Many families have to move these days due to the economy. Having this information can help health care providers and educators intervene earlier should a child exhibit concerning signs of either depression, behavioral changes, or express statements about death or dying. One issue we all have to recognize is that no threat made by a child of any age about suicide should ever be taken casually. Threats about suicide always need to be evaluated, especially in light of a family stress such as a move.

For parents, this study opens our eyes that moving is a huge stress and that our kids may have limits in their ability to adjust to new situations. We should no longer under estimate their ability to make new friends or the impact of being separated from their old friends, routines and activities.

When we become parents, we do make a commitment to our children and we owe it to them to consider their needs as we sort through life issues such as moving. So, if you have to move, then move. But, once you get to where you are going, don't assume your kids will just jump into a new life as if nothing happened. Guaranteed they will miss their old life and will need a great deal of parental support to regain their footing and find their stride again. Be ready for that and everything should work out just fine.