They're coming to take me away today (haha-hehe) to the funny farm

Reply Tue 15 Feb, 2011 09:10 am
A school had a six year old boy committed to a psychiatric ward after drawing a picture and writing "I want to die".

...I explained to them what was happening, that my husband was being deployed to Iraq, that he was upset when he came to school today, that he wanted to be home."

"I'm saying, 'I will deal with it, that we have a therapist, we'll make sure he's seen today.' "They said it was out of my hands. They said they were in control and they could do this and had already called an ambulance."


Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines released a statement, saying in part, "When any student indicates a desire to take his or her own life, the LAUSD is required to follow strict protocols to ensure the safety of the student ... The safety of LAUSD students is paramount. We did the right thing here."


I think they completely over reacted and I'd be well and truly pissed if something like this happened to Mo.

What do you think?
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Type: Question • Score: 9 • Views: 9,867 • Replies: 40

Reply Tue 15 Feb, 2011 09:15 am
I agree with you. Unfortunately, the school system is in a terrible spot liability wise. If 1000 students do this and one then does something tragic, the school system gets hammered so they take an extreme reaction in all 1000 cases. Hopefully, the student will be seen by a health professional who will listen to the parent and the student and end the entire affair.
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Reply Tue 15 Feb, 2011 09:27 am
Los Angeles County psychiatric mobile response team, which determined Jack needed to be committed to a 72-hour psychiatric hold at a local hospital.

The school didn't have him committed.

The school asked for an assessment - I think that part is reasonable.

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Reply Tue 15 Feb, 2011 09:28 am
This happened to me last week... I'm teaching a writing class in a middle school in CA...and one of my students turned in something very close to the following:

I hate myself.
My life is ruined.
I am a loner at school.
I want to kill myself because my life can never get better.

There were a few more similar lines, but he makes his point.

I marked on the paper as I do any creative writing paper... so I said, "This is very expressive! You certainly create a very clear mood in your writing. Actually, the mood is so striking that I want to make sure this is expressive writing for the assignment, and not your actual feelings. I care about how you feel. I'll talk to you today."

I went to the guidance counselor the day after I got the paper, and talked to her about it. She agreed with what I did, and told me to talk to the kid as planned.

I gave him the out of allowing him to say it was just his rendition of a creative writing project - which he did - but the guidance counselor and I didn't believe it for a second. It was a cry for help, we thought. Neither of us judged him to be suicidal....but very sad and alone.

We both acted as though we believed him, but we took the opportunity to take measures to help him. She enrolled him in some social programs at school (College Bound and an economic assist group). She talks to him frequently, and we are watching his progress.

I heard him telling a peer about his recent inclusion in the programs. He was excited and happy. I show him friendship and caring, and I'm watching his writing samples closely.

We could have gone off the deep end over what he wrote - easily.
Reply Tue 15 Feb, 2011 09:48 am
I agree with everyone who posted here.

There are times when a child will express things at school that he will not express at home, perhaps, to spare his mother or because he feels he can not talk to his mother or because being away from home -- even at school -- magnifies his feelings.
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Reply Tue 15 Feb, 2011 10:40 am
I think you handled that perfectly and I think that's how this kid's problems should have been handled.

The fact that this kid was six and that the reason he was sad was because he couldn't be with his family and that his dad was getting ready to be deployed to Iraq makes me think that the school did more damage than good.

When you add in the fact that he had already been seeing a therapist for separation anxiety it gets really weird.

I don't think the school should ignore such things but this school was way off base, in my opinion.
Reply Tue 15 Feb, 2011 11:18 am
It would probably have been useful if the school had been told what was going on before this happened.
Reply Tue 15 Feb, 2011 11:22 am
We don't really know that they weren't.

I've given Mo's school information -- even medical reports -- that they "forgot" about.

Reply Tue 15 Feb, 2011 11:31 am
I'm going by the mom's wording - sounded like she was telling them something - not reminding them.

I'm sure there's a good reason she sent him to school.
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Reply Tue 15 Feb, 2011 01:36 pm
Yes they overreacted. My youngest daughter always says things like I'm stupid (when she makes the littlest mistake) and crap like that. The next minute she will say how smart she is. Just dramatic that is all.

Young kids say precisely things often times to an extreme. It doesn't necessarily mean exactly what they state. My daughter saying I'm stupid - means I made a stupid mistake and I am angry at myself.

Any moron should be able to understand that.
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Reply Tue 15 Feb, 2011 01:39 pm
If there is underlying reason for the child to say something like that - ie deep sadness that should be expected under the circumstances and the knowing the child is already involved with appropriate help should be more than sufficient.

The school should in this case, butt out.
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Reply Tue 15 Feb, 2011 02:23 pm
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines released a statement, saying in part, "When any student indicates a desire to take his or her own life, the LAUSD is required to follow strict protocols to ensure the safety of the student ... The safety of LAUSD students is paramount. We did the right thing here."

I think the school did the right thing. They had a mobile psychiatric team assess the child, and that team felt the child should be further evaluated in a hospital.

This child apparently has ongoing problems which is why he is seeing a therapist. That doesn't mean that his problems can't suddenly become more acute. The school saw the child's condition as alarming and as one requiring urgent action, and they have a responsibility to take that action for the child's protection.

We don't know what else that child might have been doing, or saying, in school on other occasions--this child, even though he is only 6, might have displayed increasing signs of wanting to harm himself or others.

Both the psychiatric mobile response team and whoever handled the hospital admission all felt the child needed a few days of inpatient evaluation. The mother might be pissed, but she might also be minimizing the severity of the child's problems.

If the child fell, and broke his arm, the school would call an ambulance. So, if they feel the child is displaying signs of a psych emergency, why shouldn't they take similar responsible action? Parents are not the only ones responsible for a child's welfare.
Reply Tue 15 Feb, 2011 05:05 pm
Well if we're going to speculate I'll speculate that it was a total CYA thing.

If there had been ongoing problems at the school I doubt that the mother would have been so upset.

And that by the time the mobile psych. team got there that the kid was really upset.

And that it is much more common for a young child of a soldier to receive counseling regarding their anxiety over long separations from their parent than it is because they're suicidal.
Reply Tue 15 Feb, 2011 05:41 pm
The first person they should have called was the mother/parents. The same if the kid broke his arm.
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Reply Tue 15 Feb, 2011 11:54 pm
On Monday, her 6-year-old son Jack was committed to a psychiatric ward against her wishes after he drew a violent drawing at school and wrote that he wanted to die.

"They said they were concerned about a picture he drew. I said he plays video games and it's a picture from a video game."

We don't know what kind of violent drawing the child made, or how he might have elaborated on his feelings of wanting to die when he spoke to people in the school or the psychiatric mobile team that showed up at the school. The school might have been trying to protect themselves from liability, but they might also have been genuinely upset about what the child was saying and considered it a serious emergency.

They did call the mother. It sounds like she accompanied her child in the ambulance. Her gripe isn't really with the school, it's with the psychiatric mobile team that recommended the psychiatric hold for evaluation. The school did not have the child hospitalized--they simply called the mobile psychiatric team because the boy voiced suicidal thoughts while in their care. How come the mother couldn't convince the mobile psychiatric team that she (and perhaps a therapist) had the situation with her son under control? Why didn't they buy her explanation for the boy's behavior?

We have only the mother's version of events, and a lot may be missing from her account.

Why does she allow her 6 year to play violent video games?

Children with Separation Anxiety Disorder (which may, or may not be, why this child was seeing a therapist), often refuse to go to school, or even leave the house, because they don't want to separate from a parent or leave their home. We have no idea whether this child had attendance problems, or other problems, which were manifest at school even prior to this incident. There might be an entire history we are unaware of going on here. The school really isn't free to comment, beyond saying they were following their protocol for a child who is voicing suicidal thoughts, and the mother really doesn't comment--at all--about why her child might have had suicidal thoughts or might have said he wanted to die. She says the boy was upset because his step-father was going to be deployed to Iraq, and he had wanted to stay home from school that day, but that doesn't entirely explain why her child said he wanted to be dead. And we have no idea what else might be going on in this child's life that he was reacting to, besides the step-father's deployment.

Maybe the school over-reacted, maybe they didn't. We don't have the whole story, and a lot of parts may be missing.

I also wonder why the mother went public with this story. She has a child with problems, she says he is seeing a therapist. Why does she want the whole world to know about that--why is she violating her son's privacy in that way? If she feels the school, or the mobile psychiatric team, acted inappropriately, or harmed her child in some way, let her seek some kind of legal recourse. Going public, giving interviews, and releasing photos and videos of her son, all of which she has done, does not seem, to me, to be in the best interests of her child. She's helping to focus media attention on her allegedly "traumatized" child--which seems rather odd to me if she wants to help him put this episode behind him. I think there is a lot more to this story than what we already know, and I am not willing to buy only the mother's version.

Reply Wed 16 Feb, 2011 04:41 am
The LA County Department of Mental Health issued a statement yesterday after news of Jack's involuntary commitment broke:

{W]e can confirm that our team of evaluators thoroughly investigates these reports before taking any action. We carefully and deliberately evaluate all situations, acting only when the circumstances warrant.

Over the past year, the department has seen an increase in suicide risk among very young children. Not only has there been a rise in the number of young children expressing thoughts of suicide, there has also been an increase in the seriousness of the risk.

We want to reassure the community that the evaluation of a minor for suicide risk and possible hospitalization is completed in a collaborative manner with school personnel, mental health providers and parents.


That statement suggests that the child's mother, and possibly even his (former?) therapist, "collaborated" in the decision to have him evaluated in a 72 hour psychiatric hold.

The mother's main beef appears to be with the school for even calling the mobile psychiatric unit. But the psychiatric mobile team, in recommending a 72 hour psychiatric hold, was, in effect, validating the school's concern that a serious risk appeared to exist. So, why is the mother continuing to make a public issue of the school's actions--particularly since she's the one making her son's name and identity public in the process? Is she looking for a lawsuit against the school? Looking for media attention for herself? I watched a brief videotaped interview with her and she didn't appear to be genuinely upset, or angry, she was smiling and even laughing when describing about what happened with her child.

This woman has a child with separation anxiety problems. He was upset and didn't want to go to school that day. That's not uncommon in a child with separation anxiety disorder. His step-father was going to be deployed to Iraq within a few days, but the child didn't want to stay home to be with him--the step-father wasn't at home--the child was just upset and didn't want to go to school.
"I told (school officials) that he had never done any of this before, that he was upset that day because he didn't want to go to school," she said. "He was angry and crying, and I figured this was a way for him to get out of going to school."

We don't know how the mother handled that, or what she said to him to get him to go to school. But, we do know that when he got to school he drew some sort of violent, and disturbing, picture, and said he wanted to die. And this alarmed the school to such an extent that they called a mobile psychiatric unit and that team felt that a risk existed to justify a 72 hour psychiatric hold--which is a decision which is not lightly made, particularly in the case of a young child. Perhaps the drawing and the statement about wanting to die were this child's cry for help--because his mother wasn't listening to him or was minimizing or denying the extent of his distress or his problems. He did not appear to be currently seeing a therapist. And he may well be 8 years old, and not 6, which does alter his awareness, and the seriousness, of what he was saying about wanting to die. It seems that one news source may have erroneously reported his age as 6 and other outlets just went with that probably incorrect information. He does look 8 and not 6 in the video of him that I saw.

There may well be another whole side to this story beyond the mother's version.

If this child's separation anxiety caused him to not want to go to school fairly frequently, that would be very stressful for the mother to deal with. If she didn't get him to go to school, she could also be accused of educational neglect by the school, and could be reported to CPS for that. But, after this incident, the mother is claiming her child doesn't want to go back to school because the school's actions have traumatized him. So, whether that is true or not, it helps to get her off the hook if she cannot get him to attend school, or attend regularly. That might be part of her motivation for going public with all of this, as well as providing her with some basis for a lawsuit against the school for emotional damages to the child--even though she might also be damaging the child by all the publicity, and the violation of his privacy, she has created.

All things considered, I'm willing to give the school the benefit of the doubt on this one. They did not have this child hospitalized. They simply called a mobile psychiatric unit in response to the boy's suicidal comments. That was a prudent course of action given their perception of a psychiatric emergency--they simply sought another professional opinion about what should be done in that situation. They also called the boy's mother. The school acted responsibly and in accord with their legal obligations. And the mobile psychiatric team probably acted responsibly as well--they spoke with the 8 year old, and felt there was a risk, and they recommended a 72 hour hold to further evaluate the risk, and they likely spoke with the mother as well.

A minor can be held for a 72 hour psychiatric evaluation with, or without, a parent's consent in the state of California. That has nothing to do with the school system, that's part of the state law pertaining to the treatment of mental illness. and that fact is what is being lost in this story. The school did not usurp parental authority--the mobile psychiatric unit, and the receiving hospital did that, under the auspices of California law.

So, the boy was actually evaluated in the hospital for 2 days. And the mother is not claiming that the hospitalization itself was traumatic for him, but rather that he is now allegedly "terrified" to go back to school because of the school's actions and his fears of being whisked off again. Well, I think, she'd help her child more by getting him back in therapy, taking his feelings seriously, reassuring him that the school was trying to help him, and if she stopped publicizing his psychiatric problems to the whole world. Like everyone else, the child is entitled to privacy regarding his emotional problems, and it is only his mother who is blabbing about them, for reasons of her own.

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Reply Wed 16 Feb, 2011 02:07 pm
I vote CYA - you can't know for sure unless you were there (as most things) - but CYA seems more likely.
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Reply Wed 16 Feb, 2011 02:20 pm
Does a 6 yr old even know how to commit suicide? Has there ever in recorded history been a six yr old who committed suicide?
My two little brother declared one day that they were going to run away with another little fella. When my mom told them they couldn't take anything but the clothes on their backs, they decided to give up the adventure and come in for lunch.
I understand the concern, but a 6 yr old's mood can change with the wind. I understand he was sad. Seriously though, does he even understand what death is?
Reply Wed 16 Feb, 2011 10:21 pm
Does a 6 yr old even know how to commit suicide? Has there ever in recorded history been a six yr old who committed suicide?

Unfortunately, there has been the suicide of a 6 year old. Samantha Kuberski's family says that following a fight with her mother, the young girl announced she was going to kill herself before she was sent to her room, where she apparently did just that.
Samantha Kuberski, Six Years Old, Youngest Suicide Victim in Oregon State History
By Caleb Hannan
Apr. 5 2010

Six-year-old Samantha Kuberski was a happy kid who did well at school. Which is why tragedy was compounded by shock back in January, when medical examiners in Yamhill County, south of Portland, declared Samantha's death a suicide, making her the youngest person to take her own life in Oregon's history.

On December 2, the first-grader was allegedly sent to her room after getting in a fight with her mom. While her mother and three sisters were in other parts of their McMinnville house, Samatha reportedly crawled into an unused crib that had no mattress or box spring, tied a cordurouy belt around her neck and onto the crib's top railing and hung herself.

Samantha was found unconscious and rushed to a hospital where she was pronounced dead. Her parents and siblings were later interviewed by police, who ruled out any foul play and said they found no signs that the young girl had ever been abused.

Now the only thing left to parse is what to call Samantha's tragic death. While the medical examiner has ruled it a suicide, detectives insist on calling it an accident, saying that a child that small could have no idea of the consequences of her actions, an argument backed up by adolescent psychiatrists like Dr. Kirk Wolfe.

"Most kids this age are not aware of what death actually is," he told the Yamhill Valley News-Register. "Not until they get to be 8, 9 and 10 do they understand death is final and you don't come back."

I am pretty sure that Jack Dorman, the child we have been discussing in this thread, is 8 years old and not 6. I really think his age was mis-reported in most (but not all) the news accounts. I saw a video of him sitting at his computer, typing on the keyboard, and he certainly appeared to be 8.

A child that age, and even younger, can commit suicide, generally in an impulsive manner such as running in front of a car, jumping out a window, etc. Sometimes the police and doctors will label the deaths as "accidents" to spare the family the stigma of suicide. Occasionally, the method is quite thought out--as it was in the case of this 7 year old Florida boy.

March 17, 2010
After 7-Year-Old Gabriel Myers' Suicide, Fla. Bill Looks to Tighten Access to Psychiatric Drugs

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CBS/WFOR) The apparent suicide of 7-year-old boy Gabriel Myers, who was taking several psychiatric medications, has led to the introduction of a bill in the Florida legislature, which would assure that powerful mental health drugs dispensed to Florida foster care children would be more closely monitored.

The proposal is largely based on the findings of a task force formed after Gabriel locked himself in a bathroom and hung himself with a shower cord last April....

And another case...this one occurred in the child's school.

Apparent suicide of 9-year-old boy in The Colony raises questions
Jan. 22, 2010

What could cause a 9-year-old to take his own life?

Authorities, friends and the family of a boy from The Colony who was found hanged at school Thursday afternoon are struggling with that question after his apparent suicide.

A staffer at Stewart’s Creek Elementary School discovered fourth-grader Montana Lance in a bathroom, police said. No children witnessed the incident.

The Tarrant County medical examiner has not determined a manner of death, but police said they did not expect criminal charges.

"We feel like the victim acted alone; we just don’t know why," said Lt. Darren Brockway, a police spokesman for the city between Lewisville and Plano. "To fathom that a 9-year-old would even think that was an option . . . just boggles the mind."

Robby Wright, a friend of Montana’s family, said the boy’s parents, Jason and Debbie, are devastated by his death and grateful for the help they have received. "The outpouring of support from the community is very touching," he said.

Experts say that of all age groups, suicides are rarest in children younger than 10 in the United States. Typically, five to 10 suicides nationwide are reported in any given year, according to the American Association of Suicidology in Washington, D.C.

The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control reported 33 suicides among 5- to 9-year-olds from 1999 to 2006. Two were reported in Texas.

"They are infrequent," said Dr. Alex Crosby, medical epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "There is such a small number that there’s little research into that age group. Most of it focuses on older adolescents and teenagers."

But experts say younger children often need the same things as older adolescents — to experience success, belonging and positive connections. When they lack those things, they can grow despondent and desperate.

Because of their still-developing sense of awareness, they’re even less likely to fully comprehend the reality of death, said Patrick LeBlanc, a regional coordinator for Jason’s Foundation, an organization that provides youth suicide prevention and awareness programs for teachers, parents and counselors.

"A lot of them think they’ll be back at school tomorrow," LeBlanc said...

Children and depression

Bullying, loss of a loved one and divorce are factors that have been blamed for other cases of child suicide.

In most cases, the children had displayed fairly significant troubles in the past, said Dr. Lanny Berman, executive director of the suicidology association.

A misperception is that young children do not experience depression. About 5 percent of children and adolescents suffer from it, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Children who are under stress or have attention, learning or anxiety disorders are at higher risk of depression. It also runs in families.

Symptoms are often mistaken for adolescent moodiness, Berman said. Unlike in older people, depression in children is usually expressed in actions, rather than feelings.

"In general, it may be hard for the layperson to understand that a child can be clinically depressed," he said. "The bottom line is there are children as young as 4 or 5 who are diagnosed with depression."

It is important to remember, however, that in 40 percent of suicides, the victims do not exhibit symptoms of depression, he said.

That a child under 10 is aware of suicide is not that surprising, he said.

"With television and the Internet, you can’t be a child in today’s society and not be exposed to violent images," he said.

Number may be higher

Many experts say the number of suicides among younger children is likely higher than is reflected in statistics.

Some coroners and medical examiners are reluctant to rule the deaths of young children as suicides, Berman said.

Those deaths, he said, may instead be ruled accidents because of the belief that young children don’t truly understand the permanent consequence of their action.

However, there is evidence that some children have the cognitive ability to grasp the concept by age 6 or 7.

"Children under the age of 10 — if they are 8 or 9, in particular — are capable of understanding the consequence of the action," Berman said. "That is, 'That I will no longer exist in this life as I know it.’ "...

Evan Scott Perry first made a serious suicide attempt at the age of 7 when he climbed onto the rooftop of his Manhattan public school and threatened to jump, and, prior to that, he had told his mother about his fantasy of hanging himself from his bunk bed. He eventually succeeded in commiting suicide at the age of 15 when he jumped from a window. His story is told in the HBO documentary, Boy Interrupted.

As much as we might not like to think about it, young children can suffer from chronic depression, they can think about harming themselves, they can try to kill themselves, and sometimes they might succeed.

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Reply Thu 17 Feb, 2011 07:18 am

Though it's hard to know how often.

It's likely more common than we have thought as a lot of it has likely been written off as accidents.

I've worked with a number of tinies who tried hanging themselves, for instance.

I'm surprised at the reaction by this school, though

I'd have thought discussing things with the parents and assessing their ability to manage the risk...plus involving the therapist,,would have been the way to go.

I can't imagine a 6 year old being hospitalised here unless for protection if the parents were utterly neglectful or abusive....or were unable to monitor the kid adequately for some other reason..and that only for the briefest of times.

Of course, it's such an awful legal environment in the USA, and you guys are way more medicalised...but still.

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