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Report reveals scale of suicide problem among Scotland youth

Image of silhouettes of young people at sundown
Tim Marshall | Unsplash

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

A newly published report reveals that suicide was the leading cause of death among young adults and children in Scotland from 2011 to 2020.

Public Health Scotland (PHS) found that 26% of deaths among people aged 5 to 24 were due to suicide.

The figures showed that while the suicide rate among younger people is staggeringly high, it is still lower than that of people over 25.

On average, 6.6 from every 100,000 people aged 5 to 24 die of suicide every year, compared with 17.5 from every 100,000 people aged 25 and over.

The Suicide Among Young People report highlighted a saddening trend: the suicide rate decreased among those aged 5 to 24 between 2011 and 2015, from 8.1 per 100,000 to 4.4 per 100,000; however, this increased dramatically to 9.2 per 100,000 in 2019.

The report also brought to light a worrying disparity between the rates of suicide among men and women, with 10.8 from 100,000 males dying to suicide every year compared with 3.8 from 100,00 females.

A further and unsurprising trend also identified by the report was between those struggling financially and those that are not – around twice as many deaths to suicide occurred in the former group.

"Thankfully, suicide is far less common in those aged five to 24 than among older adults," said professor of Health Policy Research at the University of Edinburgh, Professor Steve Platt. "Nevertheless, during the period covered by the report, there were 820 young people resident in Scotland who died by suicide.

"That's an average of nearly seven each month – considerably more than the number of young people dying by road accidents.”

Poor mental health holding back more than half of young people

The Youth Voice census has revealed that over half of 11–30-year-olds feel that poor mental health and anxiety are holding them back.

The survey consisted of 4000 participants and covered topics such as education, careers and access to work experience.

The survey has been run for six consecutive years, with this year having the lowest number of respondents saying they felt ready for employment.

According to respondents, mental health issues are the biggest barrier to entry to work for young people, making up two of the top five main barriers to employment.

Exams and assessments were highlighted as major causes of mental health distress, alongside lockdowns caused by COVID which also lead to low-self esteem and loneliness.

“The numbers reveal the extent of the emergency," said chief executive and founder of Youth Employment UK, LJ Rawlings. "51 per cent of young people looking for work thought their anxiety was the biggest barrier to accessing work. 31.2 per cent of young people in work struggle with their well-being. Nearly a third (28.5 per cent) of young people said they are experiencing ‘social, emotional and mental health challenges.'

"The numbers are horrific, and behind each statistic is a young person needing support.” 

More than half of us would not be honest about our mental health

A new survey has revealed that over half of us would not respond honestly if asked by a family member or friend if we are feeling down.

Conducted by national suicide prevention charity If U Care Share, the survey of 1000 adults from the UK found that 30% of respondents would sometimes answer honestly, while almost 25% would never answer honestly.

Interestingly it was women aged 25-34 that were the least likely to be honest about feeling down, with 33% saying they would sometimes open up and 30% saying they would never.

Additionally, young men aged 18-24 similarly were unlikely to be honest with friends and family about feeling low, with 30% saying they would sometimes open up and 27% saying they would never.

Founder and chief operating officer at If U Care Share, Mathew Smith, said:

“Feeling helpless, worthless or hopeless are common feelings associated with feeling suicidal and often those thoughts can be overwhelming and prevent you from feeling anything else.

"With pressures like the cost of living crisis impacting individuals and families, it is more important than ever to encourage people close to us to talk about their feelings and access the support that is available. As well as longer-term emotional support, we have a 24/7 text service which is there for people who need to talk.”

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