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Analysis of Cases Involving Missing Children with Suicidal Tendencies

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Date Published

Based on data collected by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and other relevant research, this analysis of cases that involved missing children with suicidal tendencies addresses key issues prior to the missing incident, during the missing incident, and after the missing incident.


The priority of this issue stems from a 2018 report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that indicates suicide is the second most common cause of death for children in the United States in the age group 10-14 years old. Suicide attempts peak during an individual’s adolescent years, and this is the age group most often reported missing to the NCMEC. In examining this issue in relation to missing children, this report first analyzes the following significant issues prior to a missing incident: demographics, suicide attempts, self-harm, mental illness, drug use, and LGBTQ children. Significant issues examined during the missing incident are the presence of suicidal communication, events that occurred to the child discovered missing, the duration of the missing period, and repeat missing incidents. Issues addressed after the missing incident are recovery circumstances, children recovered in an adverse condition, and children recovered deceased due to suicide. Between 2015 and 2019, 52 children reported to the NCMEC as missing were recovered deceased due to suicide. Forty-two percent of these children had not been flagged as at risk of suicide. The NCMEC data in this report indicate males composed a higher proportion who were recovered deceased due to suicide. For Black and Native American children in this study, only males were recovered deceased. Still, nearly all the children in this study were recovered alive. Many of them experienced suffering both before and during the period they were missing. 20 bibliographic listings

Date Published: January 1, 2021