A piece in today’s Times. Above the piece is a photograph of a girl, her head in her arms.
About one British child in fourteen has tried to kill themselves by the age of 17, a study has revealed.
Pressures from education and social media were among the drivers, experts said, with fears growing that the pandemic would increase mental health problems among young people.
The figure comes from a survey of more than 10,000 young people collected as part of the Millennium Cohort Study, which tracks the lives of 19,000 people born at the start of the millennium.
When asked if they had ever hurt themselves “on purpose in an attempt to end your life”, 7.4 per cent of respondents said they had. A total of 24.1 per cent reported self-harm of any kind in the previous year, and 16.1 per cent had experienced “high psychological distress” in the previous 30 days.
Dr Praveetha Patalay, one of the study’s authors, said that the problems were more prevalent in certain groups. She told The Guardian: “Our study highlights large inequality in these adverse mental health outcomes at age 17, with women and sexual minorities being particularly vulnerable, potentially reflecting the greater disparity in the pressures they face, and highlighting the need for support that is sensitive to the challenges experienced by them during adolescence. [J4MB emphasis: Males are more likley than females to commit suicide in all age groups, an ONS report here. The message here is that the “attempted” suicides of females – usually cries for help – are of more concern than the actual suicides of males.]
“There is definitely a need to provide more, better and earlier support for young people to prevent their mental health difficulties from getting so severe, but equally we really need to think about why young people today are struggling so much.”
Dr Bernadka Dubicka, chairwoman of the child and adolescent mental health faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said education had been “a huge stress”, and called on the government to accelerate plans for mental health support teams in schools.
Social media was another issue driving mental health problems among younger people, she said, adding that she feared the pandemic would worsen an already increasing trend of mental health problems among children. “It’s important that we train more child psychiatrists and more people to work in children’s and adolescent mental health services,” she said. “I am hugely concerned about the impact of the pandemic . . . we know there has been a rise in referrals. In autumn last year demand was the highest it’s ever been.”
Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director, said: “The NHS continues to support young people’s mental health, with treatment continuing during the pandemic including phone and video consultations, online support with services like Kooth, as well as face-to-face appointments and mental health teams in schools.”
The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, described the age of 17 as “an important age before many key life transitions” such as the end of compulsory schooling and moving away from home. It added: “With the ending of support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) around this critical age, many young people fall through the gaps between CAMHS and adult mental health services.”
A government spokesman said: “Early intervention and treatment is vital, and we are providing an extra £2.3 billion to help an additional 345,000 children and young people access NHS-funded services or school and college-based support.”
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