Community struggles with 9-year-old's apparent suicide

What could cause a 9-year-old to take his own life?

Authorities, friends and the family of a boy from The Colony who was found hanged at school Thursday afternoon are struggling with that question after his apparent suicide.

A staffer at Stewart's Creek Elementary School discovered fourth-grader Montana Lance in a bathroom, police said. No children witnessed the incident.

The Tarrant County medical examiner has not determined a manner of death, but police said they did not expect criminal charges.

"We feel like the victim acted alone; we just don’t know why," said Lt. Darren Brockway, a police spokesman for the city between Lewisville and Plano. "To fathom that a 9-year-old would even think that was an option . . . just boggles the mind."

Robby Wright, a friend of Montana's family, said the boy's parents, Jason and Debbie, are devastated by his death and grateful for the help they have received. "The outpouring of support from the community is very touching," he said.

Experts say that of all age groups, suicides are rarest in children younger than 10 in the United States. Typically, five to 10 suicides nationwide are reported in any given year, according to the American Association of Suicidology in Washington, D.C.

The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control reported 33 suicides among 5- to 9-year-olds from 1999 to 2006. Two were reported in Texas.

"They are infrequent," said Dr. Alex Crosby, medical epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "There is such a small number that there's little research into that age group. Most of it focuses on older adolescents and teenagers."

But experts say younger children often need the same things as older adolescents — to experience success, belonging and positive connections. When they lack those things, they can grow despondent and desperate.

Because of their still-developing sense of awareness, they're even less likely to fully comprehend the reality of death, said Patrick LeBlanc, a regional coordinator for Jason’s Foundation, an organization that provides youth suicide prevention and awareness programs for teachers, parents and counselors.

It also has curriculums for children.

"A lot of them think they'll be back at school tomorrow," LeBlanc said.