Around 1 in 14 young people in England have attempted suicide before 17

Report finds that nearly a quarter of children self-harmed during the previous year amid warnings over the effects of the pandemic on the mental health of young people.

Around 1 in 14 children in England have hurt themselves “on purpose in an attempt to end [their] life,” a new report from University College London’s (UCL) millennium cohort study has revealed.

The study follows the lives of about 19,000 young people born at the start of the millennium across the UK, with the last interview taken when they were 14.

The report found that 24% of 17-year-olds surveyed said that they had self-harmed during the previous year, with 7% confirming that they had hurt themselves with the intention to end their lives.

The research highlighted groups within the cohort with higher prevalence of self-harm and attempted suicide, including females, white adolescents, sexual minorities and those from lower income households.

Nearly 1 in 3 (28%) female participants were found to have self-harmed – a 5% increase from the previous interview age – whilst 1 in 5 male participants admitted hurting themselves by the age of 17, which represents an 11% increase.

The report also found that 1 in 10 (10%) females interviewed had attempted suicide, compared to 4% of males.

In addition, the study found that sexual minority young people reported the highest prevalence of serious mental health outcomes. More than half (55.8%) of LGBTQ+ individuals reported self-harming in the last 12 months and 22% reported attempting suicide.

The report concluded that more needed to be done to support young LGBTQ+ people and their specific vulnerabilities.

“Our findings highlight the need to better support this group and for parents, educators and clinicians to be aware that sexual minority adolescents might be particularly vulnerable and need appropriate support, as they often also suffer from greater bullying, victimisation and a host of adverse co-occurring health related outcomes,” said the report.

When extrapolated, the study’s nationally representative findings suggest that almost 53,000 17-year-olds have attempted suicide, with over 170,000 having self-harmed in year before the pandemic began.

The mental health impact of the pandemic on children and young people continues to concern sector leaders.

An NHS report released in October 2020 showed an increase in prevalence of mental health conditions amongst children, rising from 1 in 9 children to 1 in 6, whilst a report from the Centre for Mental Health predicted that half a million more children will require mental health support due to the impact of the pandemic.

In addition, the Children’s Commissioner revealed in January that only 1 in 4 children in need of mental health support had access to the right services, whilst President of the Royal Collage of Psychiatrists Dr Adrian James recently declared that Covid-19 poses the “greatest threat to mental health since the second world war.”

In their conclusion, the report’s authors, Praveetha Patalay and Emla Fitzsimons, suggested that the findings presented a stark warning for authorities over the state of young people’s mental health before reaching adulthood.

“Age 17 marks an important age before many major life transitions, including the ending of compulsory education and, for some, moving away from home,” said the report.
“With support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services ending (CAMHS) around this critical age, many young people experience a gap in their care as they move to Adult Mental Health Services, potentially further worsening outcomes at the precise time when support is most required.

“These findings underline the urgent mental health support need in this generation. On the cusp of adulthood, they warn of a further widening in health, economic and social inequalities by sex, ethnicity, sexuality and socioeconomic position.”

Read the full report here
cls.ucl.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Mental-ill-health-at-age-17-%E2%80%93-CLS-briefing-paper-%E2%80%93-website.pdf

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