Concern is growing over the number of young people taking their own lives as well as an unprecedented increase in cases of self-harm. Although the overall number of suicides is quite small; 204 cases of suicide amongst 15 to 19 year olds and 12 suicides among 10 to 14 year olds in the UK in 2011, coroners are often reluctant to return a verdict of suicide in young people preferring instead to return a verdict of ‘accidental’ death as a result the statistics need to be treated with caution.
In the hope of finding ways to tackle the problem professionals who encounter suicide and suicidality in children and young people will be taking part in a conference at The University of Nottingham on Friday 24 January 2014. The conference has been organised by the School of Education, in conjunction with The Institute of Mental Health and the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust.
The conference, The Challenges of Tackling Self-Harm and Suicide in School Age Children and Young People, is the first of its kind. It will be attended by health professionals, teachers, counsellors and colleagues working with looked after children. The event, which has been oversubscribed, will offer a unique opportunity to share knowledge about the challenges that face the professionals involved in this area of work.
Dr Gary Winship, a psychotherapist, researcher and Associate Professor in the School of Education said: “Of particular concern to us is the tendency towards suicide clusters, that is to say, where numbers of suicides spike well above general prevalence levels. For instance, as we saw in Bridgend a few years ago where there were 18 suicides of young people over a period of a couple of years. Likewise in Nottingham we have seen a worrying cluster of suicides among young people between the ages of 10 and 18 with 15 known cases in the last four years.”
Dr Winship and Marie Armstrong, a nurse consultant in self-harm from Nottinghamshire Health Care Trust, co-convene the School Age Suicide Research Group funded by the IMH. The group includes representatives from local services including teachers, practitioners, the medical chair of the Child Death Overview panel Dr Dilip Nathan and the former coroner Dr Nigel Chapman, who will be opening the conference on Friday.
The conference, on 24 January 2014 at the Business School South on Jubilee Campus, brings together international experts in the field including Professor Rory O’Connor from the University of Glasgow and Professor Ella Arensman from University College, Cork. The conference event has been described by Nottingham North MP Graham Allen as important to the early intervention agenda. Students, health professionals, teachers and members of the public — including parents of children and young people — will be attending.
Dr Winship said: “One of our plans for future research is to look at case profiling of suicides to see if we can gather fine grain data which will help us understand the pathways into suicide for young people, and thereafter learn about what might be helpful in terms of prevention”.
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