Suicidal Ideation in Childhood: Some Reflections

Earlier today, someone online asked a group of autistic women about suicidal ideation in childhood and at what age it started. It is common knowledge that depression and suicidality are near-universal among autistics. After all, we are taught, be it consciously or not, that our autistic way of expressing ourselves is unacceptable.

I remember my first autistic burnout at age five. I don’t have clear, verbal memories of the experience, but my inner five-year-old might and I do experience somatic and emotional flashbacks. The family story about the event is that I was ill with the flu. At the same time (coincidentally or not) my parents were making arrangements for me to start at the school for the visually impaired. I started in mid-May, before the end of the school year.

At the time, I wasn’t actively suicidal as far as I’m aware. I started having those thoughts when I was around age seven. I have a vague memory of telling my mother that I wanted to die sometime around that age.

Interestingly, I never made suicide attempts. Even the times I planned my “final day alive”, I never had any idea how I was going to go about actually doing it. This fact was later used to “prove” that I wasn’t serious.

I mean, when I was 21 and admitted to the psych unit, my parents came to tell the psychiatrist that I’d threatened suicide ever since I was seven-years-old, almost adding triumphantly: “See, and here she is, alive!” They said I just wanted attention.

Then again, is it somehow bad that I, deep down, didn’t really want to die? I just didn’t see any alternative. Of course I didn’t want to die by suicide. I imagine at least most people don’t really want to; instead, they want a better life. But I couldn’t get that at that time or so I thought. Does that make me a bad person? I don’t think so.

It’s so sad that, at least in my family, the red flag of long-time, severe suffering was ignored as a sign of “attention-seeking”. As if a seven-year-old even has the capacity to use suicide threats to manipulate their parents for mere attention without anything else going on with them.

10 thoughts on “Suicidal Ideation in Childhood: Some Reflections

  1. wow! so sad for you that your parents said those things, its not true, you are not manipulative or attention seeking, you are and were going through so much and its actually a normal reaction to abnormal trauma. xoxo

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for validating me/us. In a way, I wish we were just attention-seeking, but the idea that this might come out of a possible psych assessment (like, should we ever get the formal DID re-assessment) scares some of us too. That in turn makes us feel weird, because I mean, shouldn’w we be scared of actually having DID? Doesn’t it make me intensely wicked that I feel invalidated by the idea that I’m not a trauma survivor, as if I wish I had these experiences? Sorry for rambling.


    1. Thank you so much. I really hope and pray your child, having presumably been diagnosed and supported early, doesn’t go through what I went through. I am so glad you value the voices of autistic adults, because so many parents of autistics don’t and that leads to more suffering among their children. After all, even though we don’t know your child like you do, we do know what it is like being autistic.


  2. I can relate to this. Not sure if I’m autistic but had my first suicidal ideation at 11. You write, “It’s so sad that, at least in my family, the red flag of long-time, severe suffering was ignored as a sign of “attention-seeking”. Yes, that’s my worry: that people will think I’m attention-seeking just because I don’t actually die. It’s like, “Would you prefer if I actually died?” LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

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