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Childline's Alison Murphy
"Children are more likely to commit suicide than adults"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 11 July, 2001, 00:53 GMT 01:53 UK
Children as young as six 'suicidal'
Young people
Suicidal thoughts 'are not uncommon' among the young
Children as young as six are attempting suicide because of abuse, bullying, exam stress and other problems, according to the counselling service ChildLine.

The helpline receives 1,500 calls a year from children who mention suicidal feelings among other problems, according to a report analysing why so many young people ring up because they feel suicidal.

It estimates 500 of the calls are from children who want to kill themselves, or who intend to try.

Young suicide statistics - 1998
Under 14s - 18 boys and 7 girls committed suicide
15-24 - 571 young men and 159 young women killed themselves
A third will have tried to kill themselves either shortly before - or even during the call, the report said.

Another 1,000 feel so bad about a particular problem that they are considering suicide.

ChildLine estimates it has helped almost 19,000 suicidal children and young people over the last 10 years.

Experts say the way to tackle the problem is to talk to children and teenagers so that, even when they do not want to talk back, they know someone cares about them.

ChildLine says sexual and physical abuse, bullying, exam stress, and family bereavement and low self esteem are all reasons children who called gave for feeling such despair.

Pressures

The report analyses 700 calls the helpline received between April 1998 and March 1999.

More girls called than boys - 574 to 126 - reflecting the fact that four times as many young women attempt suicide. However more young men die as a result of suicide.

Most were aged between 13 and 18, though some were as young as six.

The majority of calls came from children who had a number of problems and had been feeling depressed for some time.

Self harm is also an indication that children are likely to attempt suicide. ChildLine estimates those who self harm are 100 times more likely to commit suicide than those who do not.

Crisis

Of the 240 who gave details, 50% came from families without at least one parent and a fifth were living in difficult conditions, such as on the street or in residential care.

The director of policy and research for ChildLine, Hereward Harrison, said young people had a number of things they relied on - such as family, friends and sport - which were often reduced in times of crisis.

"We see this when young people kill themselves because of exam stress," he said.


Suicidal thoughts are not uncommon, but suicidal acts are

Peter Wilson
Young Minds
"If you become so obsessed with studying that you reduce yourself to one identity - that of a student - then you no longer allow yourself to function as a friend, son, brother.

"In that situation, 'failure' as a student is devastating, and tragically, for some young people, enough to make them want to die."

The director of the Young Minds charity, Peter Wilson, told BBC News Online: "Young people are very vulnerable."

He said the breakdown of family structures was a factor in the increase in depression and suicidal thought amongst children.

"We are certainly getting more reports of young children expressing suicidal thoughts, which is worrying."

But he added: "Suicidal thoughts are not uncommon, but suicidal acts are."

Liberal Democrat social services spokesman Paul Burstow said: "ChildLine's report is a damning indictment of our failure as a nation to put children first.

"The patchwork quilt of services across the country requires a national child strategy to pull together existing initiatives, plug the gaps, and ensure services are there when children need them."

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