This report draws on data from the National Child Mortality Database (NCMD) to identify the common characteristics of children and young people who die by suicide, investigate factors associated with these deaths and pull out recommendations for service providers and policymakers.
Every child or young person who dies by suicide is a precious individual and their deaths represent a devastating loss, leaving a legacy for families that can have an impact on future generations and the wider community. As with all deaths of children and young people, there is a strong need to understand what happened, and why, in every case. We must also ensure that anything that can be learned to prevent future child suicide or young suicide is identified and acted upon.
This report, the second thematic report from the NCMD, looks at deaths that occurred or were reviewed by a child death overview panel between 1st April 2019 and 31st March 2020.
Key findings in brief
- Services should be aware that child suicide is not limited to certain groups; rates of suicide were similar across all areas, and regions in England, including urban and rural environments, and across deprived and affluent neighbourhoods.
- 62% of children or young people reviewed had suffered a significant personal loss in their life prior to their death, this includes bereavement and “living losses” such as loss of friendships and routine due to moving home or school or other close relationship breakdown.
- Over one third of the children and young people reviewed had never been in contact with mental health services. This suggests that mental health needs or risks were not identified prior to the child or young person’s death.
- 16% of children or young people reviewed had a confirmed diagnosis of a neurodevelopmental condition at the time of their death. For example, autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This appears higher than found in the general population.
- Almost a quarter of children and young people reviewed had experienced bullying either face to face or cyber bullying. The majority of reported bullying occurred in school, highlighting the need for clear anti-bullying policies in schools.
This thematic report does not cover the period of the Covid-19 pandemic. For detailed analysis and real-time surveillance of child suicide rates during the Covid-19 pandemic, please see our recent briefing and the pre-print article Child Suicide Rates During the Covid-19 pandemic in England.
Media enquiries: If you are a member of the public or a journalist requiring further information about this report, please contact the NHS England media team:
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The authors of this report wish to acknowledge that the death of each child is a devastating loss that profoundly affects bereaved parents as well as siblings, grandparents, extended family members, friends and professionals. They also wish to thank all the families who shared their data and experiences, and the Child Death Overview Panels who submit detailed evidence on every death to the database.
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