Suicide prevention in children and young people
Many people think that suicide mainly affects older adults, but in the last 10 years there has been a rise in the number of younger people driven to end their own lives by suicide for various reasons. According to the Office for National Statistics, suicide is the leading cause of death for 5-19-year-olds and 200 school children a year end their lives by suicide. We need to address this issue and preventative work needs to take precedent.
"Everyone should receive Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, so we can prevent more people ending their lives by suicide." - Naomi Watkins-Ligudzinska, Fellow
Following my Fellowship trip to Australia and New Zealand, together with my own experience of working with young people, I am campaigning to see the following recommendations to be implemented at a regional and national level in the UK:
- Central and local government, along with statutory agencies, need to commit to funding and commissioning third sector organisations to develop and deliver more postvention support for young people and make this their priority.
- There needs to be a commitment to involving young people with lived experience to feed into support programmes. These programmes need to be available in schools and education establishments, along with workplaces being flexible to allow young people in employment to access these programmes.
- Statutory and voluntary community sector organisations should provide access to therapeutic support in young-people-friendly spaces. In those spaces, there should be access to all the support a young person may need, as a ‘one-stop shop’, and the criteria needs to be inclusive not discriminatory.
- There needs to be appropriate support and psycho-education for organisations and families affected by suicide, which is timely, accessible and empathic in its overall approach.
- All new and existing services working with young people to establish appropriate suicide prevention services should have an additional focus on outcomes and evaluation, to ensure they are delivering effective and empathic treatment and support. Services should incorporate research into their processes.
NW Counselling Hub, where I am CEO, launched The Willow Project in 2021, with the aim of addressing suicidal ideation in young people and young adults aged 4-30 years old. We are a counselling hub in Lincoln that receives referrals from a large number of young people and young adults who are suicidal, who have little or no support. I want our service to feel confident in addressing suicide ideation, preventing suicide in young people and supporting their families to spot the signs and provide support accordingly.
We run group therapy, workshops and 1-2-1 therapy for young people who have suicidal ideation or intention. We are developing a mental health toolkit for postvention, for young people accessing our service, which can be rolled out nationally.
Young people feel valued and heard and supported by their peers in The Willow Project. We increase beneficiaries’ resilience against mental ill-health and reduce their reliance on NHS services by:
- Reducing loneliness and isolation: they attend a weekly peer-support and befriending group.
- Improving emotional health: they practise mindfulness and art therapy.
- Encouraging a greater sense of personal wellbeing: they gain confidence through creating meaningful peer connections.
- Encouraging a greater sense of purpose: they become self-sufficient and initiate TWP activities outside of weekly meetups, during and after the project.
- Improving coping skills and self-care: they learn to turn to other members as a first-line coping mechanism.
I would like to encourage policy makers to take our findings and research seriously and increase the funding nationally for suicide prevention, intervention and postvention. This will enable organisations to implement projects and support systems that already work and to create lasting change in their communities across the UK.
I would like schools to take suicide prevention more seriously and to invest in services to help teachers.
Everyone should receive Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), so we can prevent more people ending their lives by suicide.
The views and opinions expressed by any Fellow are those of the Fellow and not of the Churchill Fellowship or its partners, which have no responsibility or liability for any part of them.