Death of 6-year-old Idaho boy ruled a suicide

ONTARIO, Ore. (AP) - Investigators say the death of a 6-year-old boy in southwestern Idaho has been ruled a suicide.

Payette Police Chief Mark Clark told The Argus Observer that he assigned four detectives to investigate the child's June 3 death and they found no sign of foul play.

Clark said the child was watching TV with his 7-year-old sister while an older sibling napped and his mother and stepfather showered. Clark says that's when the boy went into the kitchen and used a belt to hang himself from the freezer handle. The boy's sister found him and screamed for the parents, who called 911 and administered CPR until paramedics arrived.

Clark said it's not clear if suicide was the boy's intent or if he didn't understand the consequences of his actions. He said school records and interviews with relatives indicated the child had some anger-related issues.

Lucas Hooker, a Lifeways qualified mental health professional in Oregon and a licensed professional counselor in Idaho, said that situations like this are difficult to comprehend, especially when they involve such a young child. He said if parents are concerned their child is having difficulty adjusting to major life changes or other issues, they can discuss the matter with a pediatrician and get a referral to a mental health provider.

Some kids lack the verbal and cognitive ability to properly express their emotions and may "lash out" as a result, Hooker said. Signs that a child is having trouble include aggression or other unusual behavior, nightmares, unusual bedwetting or appearing to feel hopeless, Hooker said, and some depressed children may become preoccupied with thoughts of death.

"If a parent's gut is telling them that something is wrong, they need to follow that," Hooker said. "It's also important for people to know if there has been a prior suicide in the family or if the child is actually verbalizing suicide to get help. If there's a family history of suicide, the odds of the child being suicidal jump exponentially."