A 6-year-old boy still reeling from his parents' divorce two years ago, hung himself with a belt while his mother and stepfather showered and his siblings napped and watched cartoons in Payette, Idaho.
According to a report in The Argus Observer, this is the fourth time since 2007 that a 6-year-old has committed suicide in the United States, said Payette Police Chief Mark Clark.
Police investigations revealed that the boy, who was not identified, had anger issues that appear to have stemmed from his parents' divorce two years earlier. His school records also indicated this.
He was reportedly watching cartoons on TV with his 7-year-old sister last month when he got up and went to the kitchen. Another 13-year-old sibling was sleeping in a bedroom, and his mother and stepfather were showering.
Police said the sister who discovered his body said she heard gurgling sounds coming from the kitchen near the living room while she watched cartoons. About 20 minutes passed between the time her brother left the living room and the time she found his body.
He had created a noose from his belt and hung himself from the freezer handle of the family's refrigerator.
The parents were alerted of the tragedy by the screams of the boy's sister on discovering his body. They tried to administer CPR but were too late.
Police say the mother and stepfather were still wet and wearing towels from the shower and the 13-year-old was still asleep when they arrived.
Police Chief Clark noted that a coroner's report ruled the death a suicide as no signs of foul play were discovered.
"The method used was something he could have done himself very easily," Clark said.
While the hanging was confirmed as intentional, he said it was difficult to determine if the boy wanted to die.
"We'll never know this," Clark said. "All this boy did was take a nylon belt and make a noose, put the belt through the handle, stepped up underneath and pulled the belt tight in a way that even if he had wanted to undo it, it would have been nearly impossible."
Lucas Hooker, a Lifeways mental health professional from Oregon, explained that suicides, especially among victims so young, can be difficult to understand.
Parents should understand, however, that there are things that can be done to help youngsters who seem to be finding it difficult to deal with a major life change.
"The first thing to do is get them to see their primary care provider and express their concerns with them," said Hooker. "These pediatricians are able to send referrals to mental health providers out there."
"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."