SUICIDE is the leading cause of young deaths in the UK with more than 200 schoolchildren taking their own lives every year – that’s four a week.
Shocking new figures released last week revealed that rates among the under 25s has surged, with suicides of females aged 10 to 24 now at record levels.
The Sun can reveal that experts are now warning the true number of child suicides is even higher – as the deaths of kids under ten aren’t counted in official figures.
Campaigners believe these terrifying figures are the result of young people facing more pressure than ever – from stress at school to bullying on social media and worries over having a perfect ‘Love Island’ body.
Yet suicide IS preventable.
Shining a spotlight on the topic can help save lives, which is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone suicide prevention campaign a year ago today.
To mark this year’s World Suicide Prevention Week, we will turn the focus to young people and the pressures they face.
We will tell you the heartbreaking stories of children who have ended their own lives, look at just WHY modern life is so challenging for young people and share how you can spot the signs your child is at risk.
‘Don’t forget the girls’
There were 6,507 suicides registered in Britain last year compared with 5,821 the previous year, a rise of 11.8 per cent, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.
The number of women and girls under 25 killing themselves has risen significantly since 2012, from 106 to 188 deaths.
Youth suicide prevention charity PAPYRUS branded the rise in deaths as a “national tragedy” and warned “don’t forget the the girls”, urging parents to speak to their daughters about mental health.
Campaigners warn that the rise is down to new pressures young people are facing growing up in the digital age.
Julie Cameron, Head of Programmes at the Mental Health Foundation, told The Sun Online: “There’s an increasing pressure and expectation placed on young people.
“There’s pressure to conform and look and act a certain way, which means young people can’t be their true selves.
“Body image is not just about physicality, it’s about self worth and feeling less worthy than the next person.
“For some young people that unfortunately leads to feelings of conformity and can sometimes translate into bullying.”
A recent study for charity Young Minds found that 69 per cent of young people felt that body image had had a significant impact on their mental health.
There’s pressure to conform and look and act a certain way, which means young people can’t be their true selves
“Undoubtedly, all of these things existed pre-social media, but it has only amplified it.
“Previously, they could leave school and go home and it would feel more of a safe haven.
“But even their bedrooms aren’t safe – there’s phones, tablets, computers – where they can worry about pressures.
“Among all of this, there’s an increase on expectations on young people to have good careers.
“There’s so much more emphasis to get exams done, to academically be the best, but for so many young people that’s not their skill set.
“Pressures come from schools because of league tables and undoubtedly due to peer pressure, especially online where you see only the best of people’s lives and not the struggles.”
‘Stop calling them snowflakes’
As well as social media, Julie says that young people are becoming increasingly aware of the world around them and are feeling anxious about things beyond their control.
She added: “Young people are feeling pressure from exposure and knowledge to life events that so few of us have control over, such as terrorism or Brexit.
“The concept of this group of young people being ‘snowflakes’ is nonsense – they are under more pressure than society has ever put on them and they need to outwardly project to social media.
“This backdrop of stress can start affecting their sleep – which we know is important for concentration – which can feed into itself and manifest.
“All of this, in our view, is placed within a context of the last 10 years, where there’s been austerity, less support available to work with families and an increasing gap emerging for mental health services.”
The key signs your loved one is at risk of suicide
There are several warning signs that a person is at risk of suicide. But it’s vital to know that they won’t always be obvious.
While some people are quite visibly in pain and become withdrawn and depressed, others may continue their life as normal pretending everything is fine.
Look out for subtle personality changes in friends and family, especially if you know they have been going through a tough time, Lorna told The Sun Online.
These are the key signs to watch out for:
- A change in routine, such as sleeping or eating less than normal
- Struggling to sleep, lacking energy or appearing particularly tired
- Drinking, smoking or using drugs more than usual
- Finding it hard to cope with everyday things
- Not wanting to do things they usually enjoy
- Becoming withdrawn from friends and family – not wanting to talk or be with people
- Appearing more tearful
- Appearing restless, agitated, nervous, irritable
- Putting themselves down in a serious or jokey way, for example ‘Oh, no one loves me’, or ‘I’m a waste of space’
- Losing interest in their appearance, not liking or taking care of themselves or feeling they don’t matter
“Tom Madders, campaigns director at YoungMinds, said: “We know from our research that young people today face lots of different pressures.
Difficult experiences in childhood, like growing up in poverty or experiencing family problems, abuse or neglect can have a huge impact on their mental health, but there are also new pressures that have come about in recent years.
“We recently spoke to 7,000 young people who had looked for mental health support, and 77 per cent said pressure from school or college had a significant impact on their mental health.
“For many young people, it’s far too hard to get the help they need when they need it.
“The government must take action to address the factors that can affect young people’s mental health and ensure that all young people get help as soon as they need it.”
Ged Flynn, PAPYRUS chief executive, said last week:
“If we continue to collude with the silence that surrounds suicide, then I fear more young women and men will consider suicide. This is a national tragedy which needs to stop and now.
“Don’t forget the girls. Open a conversation with the young women you know and talk about suicide. That may help to save a life.”
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Chair of PAPYRUS, Harry Biggs-Davison, whose son Patrick took his own life in 2015 at 25, said: “One of the most distressing statistics regarding suicide is the fact that around four school children take their own lives every week in the UK.
“Although the majority of these are teenagers, some are primary school children and the likelihood is that official statistics – which do not recognise suicides by children under 10 – underestimate the true position.
“As things currently stand, the 200 schoolchildren lost to suicide each year in the UK could be dozens more.
“Even if it was dozens less, it would still be a national scandal.”
YOU'RE NOT ALONE
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
- CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
- Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
- Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
- Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
- Movember, www.uk.movember.com
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please call the Samaritans (free) on 116 123.