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Why would my 9 year old have thoughts that he would be better off dead?

My 9 year old son (who has been diagnosed with ADHD, but is not medicated), has made several disturbing comments.  He says that he often has thoughts in his head that he is supposed to be/or it would be easier to be dead or something to that effect.  He says he has such thoughts all the time whether or not he has had a bad day.  In fact, today he had a good day at school, as he usually does, but then came home and said it would be easier to just be dead than to do his homework.  In the past, I have brought the comments up to the LCSW he sees regularly for dealing with his ADHD symptoms, and essentially said she wasn't concerned about them.  He is a very moody child.  He is happy when playing with friends, watching tv, playing video games.  He is cranky when woken up in the morning, when asked to do any chores, asked to shut the tv off or stop playing video games etc.  He gets straight A's in school, with few behavior problems despite his hyperactivity (which is why we decided not to medicate for the ADHD when it was recommened to us).  Should I be concerned that he is having thoughts that relate to suicide?
4 Responses
189897 tn?1441126518
      I don't personally think that his thoughts relating directly to suicide is a concern.  Kids saying they wish they were dead is kind of common.  
     However, I would be very concerned about why he is saying that.  I am sensing a level of building frustration.  My own experience as a teacher and being on the ADHD forum the last 4 years is that he is beginning to feel the weight of ADHD and school.  My own experience as a teacher is that at about 4th grade a bright child starts to hit a wall.  (It happens much earlier to kids not as gifted).  Things like math (fractions) start getting harder.  But what really does it is that they now have to do homework to keep up.  They also have to listen in class, because the subject matter is now something that their innate intelligence won't let them figure out without direction.  For kids with ADHD, doing homework is hell!  I can understand his frustration.
   I am amazed by the comments of his LCSW.  These comments are classical and indicate that something needs to be done - not just written off.  A social worker could have a good understanding of what ADHD kids need if they have been in practice for years and have clients with ADHD.  However, I think that you may need - or will need - more professional help.  
   The book I recommend a lot on the ADHD forum is  - "The ADD/ ADHD Answer book," by Susan Ashley.   She has some very good sections relating to schools and homework.  Plus just a lot of other very good advice.  She has some very good advice relating to when he is cranky which will help you.  But then again your social worker should be giving that to you.  Does she also counsel you?  or just your son?
    By the way, have you talked to his teacher lately to see how he is doing.  This is the time of the year when things like math get more difficult.  I would also be making sure that next year he has a teacher that can work with ADHD kids.  It all depends how your school does the teachers for the next year.  There are a variety of ways (depending on the Principal - I always got involved), but you don't want to leave it to chance.
    You really need to get involved with his homework - in the correct way.  He can't do it by himself.    If his teacher indicates that she sees any of the frustration that you are seeing, you may want to seek more professional help.  You need somebody that can work with you as well as with him.  As the subject matter gets more difficult, you may need to look at medication (this may not happen for several years or if he is extremely intelligent - not at all).  But this is something that you don't want to leave up to a pediatrician.  Find a pediatric psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD and is willing to spend the time with you and the child.
     But first, and foremost, do some more research on ADHD and how it affects kids.  The book I recommended is great.  A pretty good web site is http://www.ncpamd.com/Gifted_ADD.htm
    Hope this helps.  If you have any other questions, I monitor the ADHD forum much closer than this one.  Best wishes.
Avatar universal
Thank you very much for your advice.  I will pick up a copy of the book you recommended and will also check out the website.  After speaking with my husband and now reading your post, I realize it is time to perhaps move on from the LCSW my son is seeing.  I have taken him to two different psychiatrists (both on recommendations), and they both immediately wrote him up a prescription (on the first meeting) and said to continue with the behavior therapy with the LCSW.  That really bothered me(the immediate push to medicate), especially considering the fact that the school has responded by saying they don't see the symptoms, they are not affecting his academic performance and they won't even agree to a 504 plan.  So I have the health professionals telling me one thing, and the school another, and the LCSW has been middle of the road.  She does "sand play therapy," which my son actually enjoys, so this is why I have been hesitant to find someone new.  I am thinking maybe a psychologist might be better?

As far as the homework goes, I let him do it independently, because he gets annoyed if I point out he has made any mistakes while he is doing it.  He rushes through it with horrendous handwriting (which is pretty much the only area at school he has trouble with), but that is one battle I have given up on.  Then I check it and tell him what he needs to fix, which is usually one or two things (like a spelling error), and he gets annoyed with me that I have pointed these mistakes out, sometimes even crying about it.  But I know how mad at himself he gets when the teacher marks something wrong, so unfortunately this must be done.

I have a pretty good dialouge with the teacher and will check in with her today.  Report cards come out tomorrow and I anticipate nothing less than straight A's.  Though I would prefer my son just get B's and not feel the way he does at 9 years old.

Thanks again for your help.
189897 tn?1441126518
    Kind of maddening that a doctor just says take the pill.  I really feel that the interaction with the parent and child is more important than any medication.  Psychologists probably do better with the interacting, but if meds are necessary its really important to find a doctor that will listen to what is going on as a lot of trial and error can happen.
   I understand what you mean about the homework.  The book has a full section on homework (Chapt. 5) which I think you will find very helpful.
  By the way, I forgot to mention one thing I was concerned about.  I have seen some kids with ADHD who spend so much effort at school just trying to keep it together and not screw up that by the time they get home - they are exhausted!  Could be a little of that going on here too.
   I am curious as to what sand therapy is - if you don't mind sharing. I assume its a form of tactile therapy?  
   I do think that finding someone who can help him understand what ADHD is and what it is doing or can do to him is important.  And, I still am also concerned about his frustration level - I do think that is something that you will need to deal with.
    You might want to also check out this site.  Its probably the most complete site I have found.  Its got so much info it can be kind of scary, but I think the section on  " Educational Interventions and Other Behavioral Techniques for ADHD"  will prove helpful.   The site is
  Hope this helps.

Avatar universal
Just a comment on the medication - I am familiar with anxiety disorders.  Medication is used for the child with severe anxiety to "take off the edge" so that the child is able to "use" the therapy and social plans designed for him/her by the medical professional.  If the child is able to effectively use the therapy without meds, then that is the preferred way.  But sometimes the anxiety is so severe that the child is unable to "learn" these management ideas.  In addition, many of our children who suffer from anxiety are also co-morbid with depression and sensitivity issues.  (I suspect ADD/ADHD children might also have similar co-morbid issues).

In anxiety disorders, the medication cannot "cure" the disorder, it just allows the child to make use of the coping skills.  I wonder if the same is true in ADD/ADHD.  Some children can learn how to cope without the medication; others can not.  

Finally, we have found that most play/music/art therapy does help some but it is only one small segement in the recovering anxiety-ridden child.  Treatment as parental intervention ideas, oversocializing, CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and medication make a much greater impact.  That is not to say that your son's "sand play therapy" is not helping, it probably will be just one small part of treating his disorder.   The best recovery plans for children suffering from anxiety always have a multi-modal approach.  You might wish to discuss some of these ideas with your son's pediatrician and/or psychiatrist.

All the best ...
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