Teenage suicides increasing. The neglected underbelly of the UK Health Services is getting softer..
Sir, The rise in teenage suicides since 2010 (news, Oct 7) coincides with spending cuts on youth services. Those have amounted to £387 million since 2010, according to Unison, the trade union. Because youth services are not a statutory requirement and the young do not have the vote, those services are a soft target for central and local government.
Chair, London Football Journeys
A leading article on the same day is below:
For too long mental health was the illness that dared not speak its name. Those who suffered from it were stigmatised. Politicians did not view it as a priority. An overstretched NHS directed scarce resources elsewhere. Recently, there have been signs that the tide is turning. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, pledged £1 billion in extra funding. However, the money has not been ringfenced and has yet to be felt on the front line. There is much to distract the government from the issue of mental health. It should not be diverted.
One in four people in this country will suffer from mental health problems. Among young people, it is endemic. Almost 12,000 children aged five or under are receiving treatment. Last year the number of teenagers committing suicide increased to 186, the highest for 17 years. Self-harm, post-traumatic stress and depression are at record levels among young women. A survey by the Girl Guides found that one third of girls between the ages of seven and ten want to be more beautiful. Two in five wanted to be thinner.
Nor is the problem confined to young women. In 2014, 4,623 young men committed suicide, equivalent to 12 deaths a day. Suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under the age of 45. This may reflect a reluctance to talk about the problem and to seek help. That stigma may be fading as some brave individuals speak out. We report today on an ambulance worker with post-traumatic stress disorder, who is speaking of the struggles that he has faced. He will meet Princes William and Harry this week. In a survey last year, however, 40 per cent of men said that it would take suicidal thoughts to compel them to seek help. Problems need not get that far.
Social media may encourage an unhealthy obsession with perfection, along with feelings of isolation. It may also facilitate bullying. One mother, Lucy Alexander, wrote an open letter last week describing how her teenage son had committed suicide after being the victim of a “cruel and overwhelming” campaign of bullying online. Stephen Habgood, chairman of Papyrus, a charity that runs a helpline for suicidal young people, has urged the government to update and implement its suicide prevention strategy. The chief executive of Young Minds has questioned whether the money pledged is making it to frontline services. A report last month by the Commons public accounts committee suggests that it is not. Only one quarter of those who need mental health services, it found, have access to them. The health secretary promised that clinical commissioning groups were committed to increasing the proportion of their budget spent on mental health. Many are doing no such thing. A majority of specialist nurses polled by the Royal College of Nursing believe that the care provided to young people with mental health problems is inadequate; almost half say it is getting worse. This newspaper’s Time to Mind campaign has called for targeted funding, shorter waiting lists and more trained staff.
Mental illness is difficult to diagnose and time-consuming to treat. However, with early intervention, it can be treated effectively. Failure to do so comes at a high price to the patient and to society. Adults with mental health problems are more likely to be homeless, jobless and involved in crime. The government’s desire to see an improvement in mental health services is welcome. Promises are worthless if they do not turn into practice.
Doctors contemplating leading the Health Services to go abroad or retire will not have been impressed with the Times headline: Happiness is the best medicine, grumpy doctors and nurses told. Henrietta Hughes is the new “whistleblowing” chief, and is trying to change an embedded culture. NHSreality feels that without changing the “rules of the game” that grumpiness will continue. As the 200+ young men commit suicide, so does the political elite…
Rosemary Bennett, Fariha Karim The Times 7th October 2016: Teenage suicides rise to 17-year high
The number of teenagers taking their own lives has hit a 17-year high, prompting ministers to produce a new nationwide suicide prevention strategy targeted at young people.
Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, has told officials that they must “improve” the existing 2012 strategy as a priority with a focus on the young.
Evidence is mounting that teenagers are struggling to cope with mental ill health, bullying and social media.
The number of teenagers who took their own lives rose to 186 in 2015, an increase of 48 per cent in the past three years, according to preliminary figures from the Office for National Statistics. The last time the figure was higher was in 1998.
Two heartbreaking cases of the suicides of young people have emerged this week. On Tuesday a mother published an open letter describing how her teenage son was driven to suicide after a “cruel and overwhelming” social media campaign by bullies…..