Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, a worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the suicide rate in England and Wales is 11 deaths per 100,000 people and it’s the biggest cause of death for men in the UK.
While suicide is more common with adults, we are hearing more reports of children and young people having suicidal thoughts and attempting suicide. According to the NSPCC, 1 in 10 Childline counselling sessions between 1st April 2020 and 31st March 2021 were regarding suicidal thoughts and feelings.
Suicidal feelings can begin at ages as young as 4-6 years old and are more likely to be linked to children who have experienced abuse or trauma.
Child Abuse and Suicide
Child abuse can cause individuals to have suicidal thoughts in childhood or it can cause them to repress their trauma long into adulthood.
Research by the University of Manchester and the University of South Wales found that people who experienced sexual abuse as a child were three times more likely to attempt suicide, and of those abused in childhood, the risk of suicide attempts increased as they grew older.
Many victims of childhood abuse struggle to open up about their abuse until adulthood and some may never tell anyone. This is sadly why some victims don’t access the support they need for the mental health problems and trauma they’re suffering.
“Unfortunately, many survivors of abuse can feel alone and unsure where they can turn to for support,” says Liam Goggin, Senior Associate Solicitor.
"“We’ve seen first-hand the devastating effect childhood trauma can have. We’ve represented survivors of childhood abuse who sadly made the decision to end their lives. It’s essential that anyone suffering from suicidal thoughts is given the support and counselling they need to help and support them. If you’re struggling, please know that you’re not alone and there is support available.”"
Senior Associate Solicitor
Spotting the Signs
It can sometimes be difficult to know what to look out for if you suspect that your child, friend or family member is suffering from suicidal thoughts, and every individual will have a different experience.
Here are some signs to look out for:
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Increased alcohol and or drug use
- Noticeable interest in ideas of suicide, death or dying e.g. internet searches
- Saying phrases such as “I’d be better off dead” or “I wish I wasn’t here anymore”
- Dramatic changes in mood
- Disturbed sleep
Most people with depression or anxiety are not suffering with suicidal thoughts but it’s important to still look out for any warning signs. If you’re worried about someone close to you, let them know that you’re there for them and encourage them to talk to you about how they’re feeling.
How Can We Help Prevent Suicide?
Early intervention and support can make a big difference to someone’s risk of suicide. While we can’t control a person’s decisions nor predict their actions, we can show them how much we care and point them in the right direction for support.
The International Association for Suicide Prevention (ISAP) say that the best thing we can do is take time to reach out to our loved ones. You may feel reluctant to talk to them about suicide in fear of saying the wrong thing but it’s important to remember that you don’t need to have all the answers.
ISAP say that showing ‘empathy, compassion, genuine concern, knowledge of resources and a desire to help are key to preventing a tragedy.’ They also stress that you shouldn’t be afraid of asking someone if they feel suicidal.
While it is a difficult issue to bring up, evidence shows that doing so is likely to decrease an individual’s distress rather than making things worse. Finding out if someone is feeling suicidal early on also means you can check in with them regularly and encourage them to get help and support.
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or you’re worried about someone close to you, please reach out.
Support and Resources
For children and young people:
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