BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Health
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Monday, 30 April, 2001, 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK
Teen male suicides hit 'crisis' levels
Teenagers walking in a group
Teenage boys contemplating suicide are most likely to choose hanging
Suicide among the teenage male population has reached "crisis" point with a 72% increase in reported cases over 20 years.

Hanging has replaced self-poisoning from car exhaust fumes as the most common suicide method among 15 to 19-year-old men, according to research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

The number of male suicides in this age group rose from 55 per million of the population in 1970 to 100 per million of the population in 1990.

But psychiatrist Dr Mike McClure, who carried out the research, says the statistics under-estimate the true extent of the problem because coroners prefer to classify unexplained deaths as "undetermined" or "accidental" if there is any doubt.

Teenage boy
Hanging is favoured suicide method

Dr McClure said: "It is something of a crisis for young males.

"It is always a mistake to look for one single cause, but it is probably a crisis of confidence among these young people.

"There are many, many more suicides in the 'undetermined deaths' category who are suicides, but aren't labelled because coroners are more reluctant to give a verdict of suicide."

A crisis of confidence could arise for a variety of reasons, including psychiatric disorders, disturbed family or partner relationships, unemployment and involvement in crime, leading to contact with the judicial system.

Violent methods

An underlying culture of drugs, alcohol and delinquency is blamed for teenagers "getting out of their depth" and turning to suicide when their grip on life spirals out of control.

Choice of suicide method has changed from overdoses, to exhaust pipes to the current preferred option of hanging.

Dr McClure said: "Men are more likely to use violent suicide methods.

"Women have a picture of themselves when they are dead.

"They like to see themselves as beautiful in their sleep and take overdoses.

"Men don't mind it being done in a more violent way, it's a cultural thing."

Men are more likely to use violent suicide methods.

Dr Mike McClure, psychiatrist

Health psychologist Dr Rory O'Connor believes the growing suicide rate reflects the urgent need for society to address the wider underlying issues.

He said: "We place higher expectations on our young people and we are not training our young people with the skills needed in a changing society.

"Suicidal behaviour is a manifestation of a problem with problem solving.

"Fifteen to 19 is a very vulnerable age and it is everyone's responsibility to help them. Society has a responsibility.

"I firmly believe we should be training young people how to deal with changes and social problem solving.

"We should be teaching them in schools.

"Suicide is an index of an ill society."

Research shows the suicide rate among girls in the 15-19-year-old age group decreased slightly over the 1970-1990 period.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

02 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Tabloid paper blamed for suicide
05 Feb 01 | Wales
Teenager found hanged in cell
16 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Bullying plea after victim's suicide
09 Jun 00 | Health
Paracetamol overdoses 'falling'
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories