NCMD to focus on child suicide in new report

How many children in England take their own life each year, and why? The answer is we cannot be sure (1), but we are becoming increasingly concerned about young people’s mental health as a nation (2) and we must understand the extent of this issue if we are to address it. NCMD is uniquely placed to gather data on child suicide across England (3) and, for this reason, we have decided to focus on child suicide in one of our themed reports.

Conservative data suggest that the number of child suicides in England is in excess of 70 per year, with most people in the sector accepting that the number is likely to be much more. That’s more than two standard classrooms of children taking their own lives each and every year. Sobering, considering the number of children who take their own lives could be reduced if we can learn from these deaths, and use that understanding to provide support.

Research by the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health, NCISH (4) reviewed suicides by children and young people in England across a 16 month period (5), and identified ten common themes (6). Their report, Suicide by Children and Young People in England, agreed that some child suicides could be avoided with knowledge of these factors and timely intervention across multiple agencies.

There is a real concern that the rate of child suicides could increase in light of COVID-19 and the lockdown restrictions. In fact, one of the ten common themes leading to child suicide, identified by the NCISH, is social isolation. This makes the need to use our up-to-date data on child suicide all the more pressing at this time. Our data can help to provide greater insight to inform changes to policy and practice to deliver the interventions needed at this critical time. Furthermore, we believe that the findings from our analysis – which will be included in our Suicide themed report at the end of 2020 – could play an important role in identifying and supporting children who are at risk of suicide, highlighting characteristics that need to be taken into consideration when commissioning mental health services for children. More specifically, it can support school-based mental health support teams and targeted suicide prevention programmes, which are being rolled out in every region.

How to get the NCMD report on suicide: This report is due out in the summer of 2021 (revised date, Oct 2020). Health and social care professionals should sign up to our mailing list to receive an update when it is available (you will also receive our quarterly newsletter and other key updates such as information about our webinar series for child death professionals). If you would prefer not to be added to the NCMD mailing list but would like to receive notification when this report is available, please email NCMD requesting to be added to our waiting list for NCMD’s suicide report.

Notes
1. ONS data for 2018 recorded 188 suicides in people under 20 years of age in England however, following a change in 2019 for the standard of proof for suicide to be “on the balance of probabilities”, coroners are likely to record less deaths as suicide.
2. NHS Long Term Plan and Mental Health Implementation Plan
3. In addition to the statutory requirement to notify NCMD of all child deaths in England, our suicide supplementary reporting form has been in existence since 2010 (it is familiar to and well used by CDOPs).
4. National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health (NCISH), https://sites.manchester.ac.uk/ncish/reports/suicide-by-children-and-young-people-in-england/
5. 145 deaths by suicide by those under 20 years old in England, from January 2014 to April 2015.
6. The ten themes identified were: family factors such as mental illness; abuse and neglect; bereavement and experience of suicide; bullying; suicide-related internet use; academic pressures; social isolation or withdrawal; physical health conditions; alcohol and drugs; and mental ill health, self-harm and suicidal ideas.

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