Child suicide rate increase prompts fears of mental health crisis

Joe Lepper
Wednesday, September 4, 2019

A marked increase in the number of children dying by suicide has prompted campaigners to call for urgent action to address a "crisis" in young people's mental health support.

The figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that in 2018 there were 188 suicides among 10- to 19-year-olds compared with 165 in 2017, a rise of 13.9 per cent.

The rise looks set to continue this year, according to latest provisional figures.

From January to March and April to June this year the number of 15- to 19-year-olds who took their own life increased from 37 to 56, bringing the total to 93 this year so far.

In addition, the number of 10- to 14-year-olds who died by suicide over the same period increased from one to four.

Boys continue to be the higher risk group. From April to June this year 39 boys aged between 15 and 19 took their own life, compared with 17 girls.

Over the same period in 2018 the figures show there were 35 suicides among boys, compared with among girls.

The charity Young Minds says that school pressures, concerns around appearance, bullying and dealing with trauma can have a devastating effect on children's mental health.

It has stepped up calls made earlier this week for the government to develop a new strategy to look at addressing the causes of young people's mental ill-health and prioritising early support.

A survey by the charity found that two thirds of young people with mental health conditions had been unable to access support when they first needed it. More than three quarters are forced to manage their mental health by themselves.

"It's concerning that there has been a reported rise in the number of young people dying by suicide," said Tom Madders, campaigns director at Young Minds.

"We urgently need a new government strategy which looks at the factors that are fuelling the crisis in young people's mental health and which ensures that anyone who's struggling to cope can get early support.

"The reasons why young people feel suicidal are often complex, but we know that traumatic experiences at a young age - like bereavement, bullying or abuse - can have a huge impact on mental health. School pressure, concerns about how you look and difficult relationships with family or friends can also have a significant effect.

"We're seeing some much-needed investment in NHS mental health services - but we need much more action to ensure young people can get early help, long before they reach crisis point."

A report released last month by the Children's Society found that one in five children have concerns about their mental health. Those in poverty are particularly worried.

The Department of Health and Social Care said: "Every suicide is a preventable death and we are working urgently with partners across government, businesses and communities to tackle this problem.

"All councils have a suicide prevention plan in place backed by £25m and we work closely with them to ensure they are effective.

"We are transforming mental health services with a planned record spend of £12.1bn this year and announced a further expansion of mental health services in our Long Term Plan for the NHS, with an additional £2.3bn in real terms by 2024."

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