Youth Suicide: Facts, Information and Free Resources

It’s a topic that still receives a lot of stigma in adults, nevermind children. But as stats show an increase in children and young people under the age of 19 taking their own lives since the pandemic, we thought we’d get it out in the open.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in children and young people.
 
More than 200 children die by suicide every year in the UK, but this may underrepresent the true number of deaths due to a high burden of proof required by coroners. Not only this, but as some inquests can take a number of years, it’s likely we will see a further increase over the next few years as the true toll from the pandemic comes to light.
 
It’s important to remember that suicide represents the extreme endpoint of mental ill health, many more children and young people experience suicidal thoughts and a huge number self harm. {Sources below}
 
The Facts
  • Since 2013, suicide rates have risen among younger males aged 10-14, and among females across all ages.
  • In England, a quarter of 11-16 year olds, and nearly half of 17-19 year olds (46.8%), with a mental disorder reported that they have self harmed or attempted suicide at some point in their lives.
  • Around 7% of all children under 17 have attempted suicide.
  • Waiting lists for professional support are up to three years in some areas.
  • Children are waiting more than 12 months for an assessment
  • The suicide rate for young people aged between 15-19 increased by 35% from 2020 to 2021 alone.
  • A quarter of teenagers are now suffering from anxiety or depression.
  • More children than ever are on antidepressants.
  • Children as young as six have died by suicide.
Most deaths by suicide are preventable, but not all.
 
The Why
 
Suicide is linked to many factors, including: poor mental health; self-harm; academic pressures or worries; bullying; social isolation; family environment and bereavement; relationship problems; social media; substance misuse; or neglect.
 
We are yet to see the true repercussions from the pandemic. We know that feeling safe is one of the biggest protective factors for young minds, yet for a year or two, we effectively told children that the world wasn’t safe and we were to stay inside. We lost connections and physical contact, which we know is important for good mental health and children were unable to socialise with each other.
 
In fact, primary school teachers have said that the current generation entering schools are the most impacted emotionally, and regular discussions on teacher groups show a huge decline in the lack of emotional regulation in young children.
 
There are many reasons why children may decide to end their lives, however, suicide is not usually a snap decision and there is usually a journey to reach this destination. We believe that early education and prompt support are key.
 
Myths
 
Myth 1: Talking about suicide can give young people ideas
Most experts and professionals agree that not talking about suicide is more harmful than talking about it. In fact, people who are struggling or have felt suicidal will often say what a huge relief it was to be able to talk about what they were experiencing.
 
Evidence shows asking someone if they’re suicidal can protect them. They feel listened to, and hopefully less trapped. Their feelings are validated, and they know that somebody cares about them. Reaching out can save a life.” Says Rory O’Connor, Professor of Health Psychology at Glasgow University.
 
If somebody is having thoughts of self harm or suicide, it is unlikely that you will give them ideas. Talking about suicide provides the opportunity for communication for anyone who is having these thoughts but doesn’t know how to bring up the topic of conversation.
 
When talking about suicide with young people, you could open up the channels of communication by first saying that this is not a taboo topic and you are open to listening to them about how they’re feeling whenever they need, especially if they ever have thoughts of harming themselves.
 
Myth 2: People who are suicidal want to die
Most people who have suicidal thoughts do not want to die; they just want the situation they are in to change or the way they are feeling to stop. This distinction is extremely important, because this means that there are ways to help.
 
Myth 3: Suicide is selfish
Suicide isn’t selfish. People who are suicidal often believe they are a burden to their loved ones and that they would be better off without them.
 
“Suicide is at the end of a long probable chain of thoughts and it is rarely, if ever, done for selfish reasons. It is ultimate despair.” Says Prof Paul Fearon, medical director at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services.
 
Myth 4: People who threaten suicidal are attention seeking
People who say they want to end their lives should always be taken seriously. In fact, it could have taken a lot of courage for someone to say they are feeling suicidal and every threat should be treated as though the person has intent to die.
 
Myth 5: There are no signs if someone is feeling suicidal
If someone is feeling suicidal there can often be signs, but it is important to remember that everyone copes differently. There are some signs that can show someone is going through a difficult time or having difficult thoughts. These may include:
  • The recent suicide, or death by other means, of a friend or relative.
  • Previous suicide attempts.
  • Preoccupation with themes of death or expressing suicidal thoughts.
  • Depression, conduct disorder and problems with adjustment such as substance abuse, particularly when two or more of these are present.
  • Giving away prized possessions/appearing to make final arrangements.
  • Major changes in sleep patterns – too much or too little.
  • Sudden and extreme changes in eating habits such as losing or gaining weight.
  • Withdrawal from friends and family or other major behavioural changes.
  • Dropping out of group activities or losing interest in things.
  • Personality changes such as nervousness, outbursts of anger, impulsive or reckless behaviour, or apathy about appearance or health.
  • Frequent irritability or unexplained crying.
  • Lingering expressions of unworthiness or failure.
  • Lack of interest in the future.
  • A sudden lifting of spirits, when there have been other indicators, may point to a decision to end the pain of life through suicide.
Myth 6: Marked and sudden improvement in mental state signifies the suicide risk is over
Sometimes people who are feeling suicidal may experience an uplift in spirits before a suicide attempt, this is because a person with suicidal thoughts may feel that the end of their pain is near and they will not have to live with it for any longer.
 
Myth 7: Every death is preventable
In an ideal world, every suicidal death could be preventable, but no matter how well intentioned, alert and diligent our efforts may be, there is no way of preventing all suicides from occurring.
 
Myth 8: You can only call Samaritans if you’re suicidal
Samaritans are available for anyone who has conflicting thoughts and feelings and want someone to talk to. You can call them free, day or night on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.
 
Myth 9: The only effective intervention for suicide comes from professionals
Whilst people with suicidal thoughts will need the help and support of a trained mental health professional, anyone has the ability to talk to and support a young person in distress. All people who interact with adolescents in crisis can help them by way of emotional support and encouragement. Having a good support network is a huge factor in recovery from suicidal ideation.
 
Free Resources
The resources below will be free until April 2023 when they will go on to form a part of our new Teen section of our Hub. You can download these to help any pre-teen, teen or young person who is experiencing suicidal thoughts or who is self harming.
 
Disclaimer: Please remember that our resources do not replace professional support and should you or someone you know be in crisis please refer to our urgent support page here.
 
My Safety Plan
A Safety Plan is exactly that – a plan to keep yourself safe. For any teen or young person experiencing suicidal thoughts, it is important they fill out a safety plan so that they know what to do, who to talk to and what resources to use to help them when they are experiencing thoughts of self harm or suicide intention.
 
My Bad Day Support Plan
We all have bad days, for some of us, those bad days can come around a lot more frequently. Have your teen or young person fill out a plan to help cope with those tougher times.
 
My Circle of Support
For teens and young people experiencing mental ill health, it’s important that they know who to trust and who they can talk to. Having a support network is a huge protective factor in mental health and a major part of recovery.
 
Self Harm Tracker
Use our weekly self harm tracker to track self harm urges, this tracker will be able to tell you whether you need to explore further help and support.
 
Things I Can Do When I Feel Like Self Harming
Fill in this self harm distraction plan to cope with the urge to self harm and learn about what works for you.
 
 
Sources/Further reading

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