Expert Advice: Gifted and Suicidal

Gifted children often have social issues that are just as challenging -- and trickier to fix -- than educational issues.
Depressed Student
I have an 11-year-old nephew who is extremely gifted. His mother makes sure he is being challenged in many areas; however, he is very socially frustrated with almost all children and many adults. In the last few weeks, his parents discovered that he is suicidal. How can they help him without pulling him away from school and other children?
You are right to be so concerned. Sometimes in our attention to educational issues for gifted children, we forget that they often have social issues that are just as challenging -- and trickier to fix! Your nephew definitely needs counseling by a therapist who understands gifted persons. Tell his parents to ask the counselor just how much experience she has had with gifted persons before they take their son to see her. Why is it so important to have a counselor who understands giftedness? Because there is often a sensitivity or intensity in reactions in the gifted that can be misunderstood by those who are not familiar with this. Counseling can be private and can be done on an out-patient basis, so it does not have to remove the boy from school or other children.

Keep in mind that just because a person is extremely gifted, it doesn't mean that he's more prone to depression. There is a depth and sensitivity present that your nephew, as a boy entering puberty, needs special help in adjusting to. Encourage his parents not to delay in getting him help. If they are unable to find anyone, contact their state or county's psychological association.

Noreen Joslyn is a licensed independent social worker in the state of Ohio and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She has a master's degree in Social Work, specializing in family and children, from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a psychiatric social worker in private practice with Ken DeLuca, Ph.D. & Associates, where she counsels parents and children.

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