Suicide - why are we seeing more young people affected?

Last Saturday was World Suicide Prevention day. We take a look at how suicide seems to be affecting more young people than ever
14 September 2016

Childline get a call from a child with suicidal thoughts every half an hour in the UK and, according to NSPCC, this figure has more than doubled in five years. On top of this, a study by Dr Ann John showed that there has been a massive increase in young people being prescribed anti-depressants over the past decade. It appears that the children of today are increasingly calling out for help – something that is reflected by the numerous stories in the press about the rise in number of ‘unhappy’ young people.

But why is this? What has changed? And if things really have changed, why are children today more unhappy than ever?

It appears that the children of today are increasingly calling out for help – something that is reflected by the numerous stories in the press about the rise in number of ‘unhappy’ young people.

Natasha Devon MBE, founder of the Body Gossip Education Programme, said in an article in The Independent that changes in education since 2010 have led to problems for young people. The shift to focus more on academic subjects, which in essence means a reduction in physical and creative outlets, is not giving children the chance to destress that they previously had access to. Nor do they have as many opportunities to work through any anxiety.

Interestingly, more children might also be seeking help. A BBC article published in May reported figures showing that more than a quarter of children referred to mental health services in England last year, including those who attempted suicide, received no help. Children's Commissioner Anne Longfield told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Trusts were reporting that the demand for their services was just too high and that more awareness of mental health conditions had more people coming forward for help. This rise in awareness is obviously a good thing, but the infrastructure of care, it seems, is unable to keep up.

So with more awareness and communication around mental health issues, is there really an increasing problem or has it always been there? And, of course, the more important question, does it really matter? The fact that we know that around 53 children call Childline everyday thinking about taking their own lives is shocking whatever has happened previously.The point is that we look at how to solve this.

 

The fact that we know that around 53 children call Childline everyday thinking about taking their own lives is shocking whatever has happened previously.

Recognising mental health issues in young people as a priority and raising awareness on ways everyone can help could be a start. Our World of Good report showed that the biggest causes of harm and worry in young people included failing to succeed within the education system, a lack of employment opportunities and issues relating to body image.

We’re working to resolve these issues as best we can through our operations. We know that not everyone is academic, which is where YMCA Training comes in, offering different paths in education like study programmes and apprenticeships in varying industries. We also recognise how exercise can help the mind. We manage many community programmes for young people at YMCA Club, giving an outlet to allow them to work through any anxiety and issues they may have. Laura Walsh, the Children & Young People Manager in the club understands how body image may especially affect young girls

Raising awareness amongst young people on both the fact they can talk about mental health issues and ways in which they can work through them, must remain a top priority so we can begin to see a decline in the number of children affected by suicide.

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