Sui­cide at­tempt rate may be one child per class

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - ANALYSIS - Larissa Nolan

THE rate of at­tempted sui­cide among school-age teenagers could be as high as one child per class, ac­cord­ing to dis­turb­ing new re­search high­lighted by the Chil­dren’s Om­buds­man who has de­manded that more help be given to at-risk young­sters.

The study — car­ried out on over 1,000 chil­dren with an aver­age age of 13 — found that 14pc of teenagers had de­pres­sive symptoms, 24pc had anx­i­ety and up to 20pc had at­tempted self-harm.

Young Lives in Ire­land, a school-based study of men­tal health and sui­cide pre­ven­tion, was car­ried out by the Na­tional Sui­cide Re­search Foun­da­tion to iden­tify risk and pro­tec­tive fac­tors for ado­les­cents be­tween the ages of 13 and 16.

A to­tal of 1,096 stu­dents — 600 boys and 496 girls — took part from 17 main­stream, mixed-sex pub­lic sec­ondary schools across Cork and Kerry.

The re­search also showed that 7pc of teens had had some type of sui­ci­dal thoughts.

Al­most 4pc had at­tempted sui­cide.

Om­buds­man for Chil­dren, Dr Niall Mul­doon, said that while Ire­land had made progress in re­mov­ing the stigma of sui­cide, we were putting young peo­ple at risk by not giv­ing teenagers the help they needed.

“We are bring­ing them out of the shad­ows — and then leav­ing them ex­posed in sun­light with­out the proper ser­vices,” said Dr Mul­doon, who is a psy­chol­o­gist.

“Some­times, chil­dren are go­ing into adult A&Es and haven’t been able to get ser­vices.

“Chil­dren’s rights are be­ing dam­aged all the time in that sit­u­a­tion; they need help im­me­di­ately and it is not be­ing pro­vided for them.”

Dr Mul­doon said iden­ti­fy­ing men­tal health prob­lems early was key to re­duc­ing the in­ci­dence of sui­cide and sui­cide at­tempts — but if it does hap­pen, we need to make a swift re­sponse.

“If we can pre­vent it, fan­tas­tic. But if it does hap­pen, we need to be there to pick up the pieces,” he said.

The om­buds­man spoke out to sup­port the pi­o­neer­ing part­ner­ship be­tween the St John of God men­tal health hos­pi­tal and Youth Ad­vo­cate Pro­grammes Ire­land (YAP).

In the first ini­tia­tive of its kind in Ire­land, ado­les­cents in men­tal health care will have ac­cess to an in­de­pen­dent ad­vo­cate, who can lis­ten to their con­cerns, in­form them of their rights and ac­com­pany them to ap­point­ments.

“There are a lot of peo­ple mak­ing a lot of de­ci­sions in a men­tal health set­ting and it is im­por­tant the chil­dren re­ceiv­ing care have their voices heard and val­ued,” Dr Mul­doon added.

“This al­lows an­other in­de­pen­dent voice with no ties to ther­apy or di­rec­tion. It’s a re­ally strong as­set.”

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