Suicide by children and young people

Suicide is a leading cause of death among youths, accounting for more life years lost than traffic accidents. In particular, little is known about suicide among children (i.e. 10-14 years).

Young suicide in the UK general population

  • There are approximately 246 suicide deaths per year among young people 10-19 years of age (a rate of 3.28/100,000 population)1
  • Rates have decreased in recent years
  • Suicide rates are substantially higher among adolescents (15-19 years) compared to children (10-14 years)
  • In the UK, the magnitude of the difference is greatest in the youngest age groups2

Young suicide in the UK mental health patient population

  • There has been a 57% decrease in the number of young (under 25) patients, primarily in the 20-24 age group3
  • However, there are low rates of mental health contact among young people compared to older individuals1, 4
  • Features associated with young suicide include:

o    a primary diagnosis of affective disorder or schizophrenia

o    substance misuse

o    self-harm

o    mental illness history

o    residential instability

  • However, over half of youths were living with parents and one-fifth were in full-time education, suggesting opportunities for intervention 

Lessons for prevention

Suicide prevention in young people is likely to require a multi-agency approach. A particular emphasis should be improving engagement with services, and better management of severe mental illness and behavioural problems1

References

1. Windfuhr K, While D Hunt IM, Turnbull P, Lowe R, Burns J, Swinson N, Shaw J, Appleby L and Kapur N (2008) Suicide in Juveniles and Adolescents in the United Kingdom, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 49:11, 1155-1165 (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2008.01938.x/pdf)

2. National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness. Suicide and Homicide in Northern Ireland 2011. (http://www.bbmh.manchester.ac.uk/cmhr/research/centreforsuicideprevention/nci/reports/northern_ireland_full_report_june_2011.pdf) )

3. National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness. Annual Report 2011. (http://www.bbmh.manchester.ac.uk/cmhr/research/centreforsuicideprevention/nci/reports/annual_report_2011.pdf)

4. Hunt IM, Kapur N, Robinson J, Shaw J, Flynn S, Bailey H, Meehan J, Bickley H, Parsons R, Burns J, Amos T and Appleby L (2006) Suicide within 12 months of Mental Health Service Contact in Different Age and Diagnostic Groups British Journal of Psychiatry 188: 135-142 (http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/188/2/135.full.pdf+html)