Suicidal Tendencies Rampant Among Welsh Girls, Call for New Mental Health Strategy

by Gopalan on  March 25, 2009 at 12:42 PM Mental Health News   - G J E 4
Suicidal Tendencies Rampant Among Welsh Girls, Call for New Mental Health Strategy
Appalled by the increasing suicidal tendencies among young Welsh girls, calls are made for a new mental health strategy.

For every suicide in Wales there are 20 admissions for self-harm. While 75% of suicides are among men, but more than half of all episodes of self-harm, which require some medical intervention are by young women.

According to the National Public Health Service for Wales (NPHS) figures, young women between the ages of 15 and 19 have the lowest suicide rates but the highest levels of self-harm admissions.

And the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy quotes the figure that one in 12 young people self-harms.

Dr Jonathan Scourfield, a senior lecturer at the Cardiff School of Social Sciences, said: "Various studies have shown that deliberate self-harm is much more common in young women than young men.

"It seems to be associated with substance misuse, depression and anxiety, problems with schoolwork and peer relationships, experience of sexual abuse and bullying as well as having a friend or family member who self-harms."

Sarah Smith, the children's service manager for the Barnardo's Cymru Caterpillar project, who works with young people who self-harm, said: "There are a range of reasons why people self-harm - it can be about them not liking themselves, about feeling down or overwhelmed by their feelings.

"A lot has to do with isolation and not understanding or having other mechanisms to get rid of that pain of frustration."

MORE than 500 suicidal Welsh children phoned the ChildLine helpline in Wales last year - some claiming they had already attempted suicide and others making attempts while on the phone to a counsellor.

The figures, released by NSPCC Cymru/Wales, equate to 10 desperate children a week calling the helpline, although one in every three calls to its number still goes unanswered because of a lack of funding.

Of those distressed callers who gave their age, half were aged just 12 to 15 years old.

The four-fold rise in children calling about suicide in Wales over the past five years, compares to a three-fold rise across the UK in the same period.

The NSPCC said 80% of UK calls to ChildLine about suicide were from girls, but calls from boys are rising fast and are now four times higher than five years ago.

One caller, 13-year-old Paul, said: "I feel like killing myself. My mum and dad beat me and I'm getting bullied at school. I don't have anyone else to turn to except ChildLine.

"No-one else would be able to help me; I'm scared of telling anyone."

In response to the figures, Cardiff North Labour MP, Julie Morgan, today called for a new mental health strategy for young people, in a bid to tackle the growing numbers considering harming themselves, Western Mail reported.

Mrs Morgan, who is a former social worker, said: "This report and others like it show that children in Wales are crying out for help. We need to listen. This needs to be addressed.

"There has been an increase in self-harming among young people which is particularly worrying and is a sign of desperation and a lack of self worth.

"We need to look at the whole aspect of mental health for our young people and consider not just the symptoms - but also look at what makes children so unhappy."

As well as bullying, she said it could have something to do with the credit crunch creating a gloomy mood or our celebrity culture creating a feeling among children that they are not living up to it.

Simon Jones, NSPCC policy and public affairs manager for Wales, said children often say they have a history of abuse, neglect, family problems, mental health issues or have been bullied.

He said: "Suicidal children tell us they feel utterly lonely and helpless and, apart from ChildLine, nobody seems to care whether they live or die.

"Some children and young people felt there didn't seem to be enough time in today's hectic family life for parents to spend time with them, listening to their problems.

"It is vitally important that parents also receive help, advice and support to be able to spot the signs that their children may be struggling with a problem.

"Children can hide their distress so effectively that parents may have no idea their child is suicidal.

"From what callers tell ChildLine, it may be the case that some children and young people are more actively seeking help and advice when they feel like this.

"For a suicidal child, ChildLine can literally be a lifeline.

"Professionals from all agencies need to be trained to spot signs that a child or young person is distressed or suicidal and then be able to effectively intervene."

He said the decision of the Assembly Government to publish and roll out the school-based counselling strategy, Talk To Me, is a significant step forward.

"This will provide another person that children and young people can turn to, to talk about their problems and worries," he said.

"It is absolutely vital that these support services develop, so that a web of professionals are available to provide children with someone to turn to."

Source: Medindia

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