Nearly half of children who died by suicide in 2014/15 had no contact with health or social care services, a report by the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness (NCISH) has revealed. The report, Suicide by children and young in England, found that children and young people at risk of suicide may be in contact with a range of services including primary care and mental health.
However, they may find it hard to access the services, with 43% of children who died by suicide having no contact with any providers. ‘Nurses working in mental health, and those working with children can give vital support and identify those at risk, and it is heartbreaking that young people have not known where to go or struggled to get help,’ said Ian Hulatt, the RCN’s professional lead for mental health.
The report, which studied the 145 incidents of suicide in the country between January 2014 and April 2015, also found that a focus on early interventions would help reduce suicides. Of the 145, 51 (39%) had a diagnosis of mental illness, 70 (54%) had a history of self-harm, and 16 (12%) had expressed concern about suicidal thoughts to a health professional such as a GP. The report states that healthcare professionals can contribute to suicide prevention by recognising the pattern of cumulative risks and ‘final straw’ which can lead to a suicide attempt.
‘Self-harm is strongly associated with increased future risk of suicide and is one of the main warning signs,’ said Nav Kapur, the NCISH’s head of suicide research. ‘It is crucial that there is improved help for self-harm and access to mental health care. However, with the variety of factors we found with this study, it is clear that schools, primary care, social services and youth justice all have a role to play,’
The study also found that external events and situations had a clear link to suicide risk. It discovered that 28% of the young people who died had been bereaved, in 13% there had been a suicide by a family member or friend. A further 36% had a physical health condition such as acne or asthma, and 29% were facing exams or exam results when they died. Four died on the day of an exam, or the day after. ‘There are often family problems such as drug misuse or domestic violence and more recent stresses such as bullying or bereavement, leading to a ‘final straw’ factor such as an exam or relationship breakdown.’ said Professor Louis Appleby, director of the NCISH.