Teenage suicides in England and Wales rise 67% since 2010

Exclusive: Significant increase called a 'national scandal'

May Bulman
Wednesday 05 September 2018 00:07 BST
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The number of teenage suicides in England and Wales increased by 67 per cent between 2010 and 2017, The Independent can reveal.

Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures show that in the last year alone 187 under 19s took their own lives, compared with 162 the year before - a rise of 15 per cent.

At the start of the decade in 2010, the figure stood at 112. Since then tuition fees have increased, while studies have linked social media to increasing anxiety and depression among teenagers.

The latest figures follow June's announcement that the teenage suicide rate in London had increased at more than four times the national rate, rising by 107 per cent in the three years from 2013 to 2016 – from 14 to 29.

Barbara Keeley, Labour’s shadow minister for mental health, told The Independent that the latest figures were a “national scandal”.

She said they were "particularly troubling as next week is suicide prevention day, which is a reminder that with the right support death by suicide can be prevented."

She added: "Unfortunately, young people's mental health services have not been given the resources they need under this Tory government. This has meant that children who are referred to mental health services too often receive no help at all. Those who do receive help have to deal with unacceptably long waiting times, sometimes up to eighteen months."

“Labour are committed to making young people’s mental health a priority. We are committed to increasing the proportion of the budgets spent on young people’s mental health services, and to providing access to a school-based counselling service in every secondary school.”

Andy Bell, Deputy Chief Executive of the Centre for Mental Health charity noted that the total number of suicides had fallen for the second year running, from 6,188 in 2015, 5,966 in 2016 and 5,821 last year.

But he said: “Every loss of life through suicide is a tragedy for everyone involved, often for whole communities, and we need to redouble efforts to prevent suicide whenever possible. With up to 6,000 lives lost each year, we know that concerted action is needed with people of all ages, including children and young people, to reduce the risk of suicide and ensure people get help where and when they need it.”

Ruth Sutherland, chief executive of the Samaritans charity, added that “more timely data and research was needed” to understand why so many teenagers were taking their own lives.

“Understanding the risk factors for suicide among young people can help us to prevent it," she said. "Research tells us that events such as bereavement, a history of abuse, self-harm, mental ill health and experiencing academic pressures are common risk factors in young people who take their lives.

“Of course, many young people will experience these things and not take their own life, and it is helpful to understand more about causes, so we can identify groups of young people who may be more at risk and need specialist support. To prevent future suicides, we need to better identify risk factors and understand what might be influencing the increase. Samaritans believes that early intervention is the key to suicide prevention, particularly when it comes to young people."

Ms Sutherland also called on politicians, employers, health bodies and educators to all work to identify and support those who are at risk.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Every single suicide is a tragedy and suicide prevention remains a priority for this Government. That’s why we are investing record levels to transform mental health services so more people have access to treatment and care when they need it most.

“We are spending an extra £300 million to provide more help mental health support in schools and have committed to a further £1.4 billion investment to support significant transformation of services for children and young people.”

For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116 123.

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