Report highlights communication problems between mental health services and young people

A report by The University of Manchester has highlighted major communication problems between mental health services and suicidal young people in the UK.

The report, entitled Suicide in Juveniles and Adolescents in the United Kingdom, found that just 14% of young people who committed suicide between 1997 and 2003 were in contact with mental health services in the year before their deaths.

These findings, which were published this week, contrast sharply with older age groups during the same period: the number of adults in touch with mental health services in the year before their suicide was almost double that of the 10-19-year-old group at 26%.

The figures reveal that in Wales there were 119 suicides recorded among young people over the seven years. In Scotland 330 cases were recorded, 1,172 youths took their own lives in England while the figure for young people in Northern Ireland was 101.

Dr Kirsten Windfuhr from the University’s Centre for Suicide Prevention said the lack of communication with mental health services during this period was “concerning”.

She said: “There is a very low rate of contact among young people in the year prior to suicide, particularly among young men, with 12%.

“What we’re seeing is high rates of suicide among young males, but at the same time they also have the lowest rates of contact.

“We need to identify the barriers they have to accessing services and have a collaboration between multiple services – education services, social services and health services – to make sure young people that are vulnerable can have the care that they need.”

On a more positive note the report also stated that suicide rates among young people in the UK fell by 28% during the seven year period.

According to Dr Windfuhr the increased prescription of antidepressants during this time may have had an impact on what she says is a “complex issue”.

She said: “It is likely that a combination of factors, both clinical and socio-economic, will have contributed to the decrease in suicide rates.”

Dr Windfuhr added that the university is currently analysing more recent data.

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