Suicidal thoughts start young

By: yourtown 01 Sep Blog, yourtown, Kids Helpline

You may have recently seen Kids Helpline making headlines… and for good reason.

It follows research by our own Dr Samantha Batchelor which revealed of the 59,000 contacts made to Kids Helpline related to suicide between 2012 to 2016, one in five were from a child aged 14 years or younger.

Children as young as 10 are expressing thoughts of suicide

“We need to increase awareness that suicide is a real issue amongst young people and ensure that every young person is taken seriously,” Dr Batchelor said.

A 2016 yourtown survey of 472 children and young people with lived experience of suicide found, that in the 14 years and under age group (n=139):

  • 82% had made a suicide plan

  • 54% reported having attempted suicide

  • 26% received help or support
     

Despite this, the awareness about suicidal thoughts and behaviours in younger children is limited.

“Children told us that parents and other adults can sometimes dismiss their concerns as attention-seeking or ‘just a teen thing’ and they fear ‘being judged’, which means that children don’t always get access to professional help they need,” Dr Batchelor said.

“Seeking help can be terrifying when you’re that young. Children are scared no one will understand and that they won’t be believed.

“They often feel ashamed and worthless, so they just stay silent.”

Children share their reasons for staying silent...

Stigma

“If I talk to someone they won’t understand or they will find me weird and never talk to me anymore”

Scared of being called an attention seeker

“I feel so weak. Everyone will think that I’m using it for attention”

Feeling worthless and undeserving

“I see many people with problems far greater than my own so I just stay silent"

Fear

“Even though in my head I’m screaming ‘help me’ at the top of my lungs I can’t get a word out"

Don’t want to hurt the people they love

“I can’t bring myself to tell her …. I don’t want to hurt her. I don’t want to be a burden"

Think they won’t be believed

“When I tried to tell someone close to me they thought it was a joke. They didn't take me seriously and didn't help me"

More education and services are needed

So what is the next step to help those young people in need?

yourtown CEO Tracy Adams has called for greater public education and intervention services for children thinking about suicide.

She said more research into suicidality among younger children was also needed.

“If we can find out the help-seeking preferences and gather more data on the prevalence of thoughts and attempts of suicide then we can tailor the access to suicide prevention strategies,” Ms Adams said.

“It’s also recognised that learning that your child is thinking about suicide is distressing. Parents need support too, both for their own wellbeing and so they can effectively support their child.

“We can use what we learn to better inform community education and create nation-wide interventions that will ultimately save young lives.”

Check out the full report for yourself and listen to Dr Samantha Batchelor talk about her research below...

 

About yourtown...

We’re a community funded organisation that’s taking on the challenges young people face including Mental Health, Unemployment, Family and Domestic Violence. 

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About Kids Helpline

Kids Helpline is Australia’s only free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25.

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