Exam stress, acne and asthma are among the anxieties affecting children and young people who kill themselves, according to the first ever detailed national investigation of these cases.
Between January 2014 and April 2015, there were 145 suicides in England by children and young people aged 10 to 19. An inquiry looking at 130 of the cases has found some common factors, or “antecedents”, which the researchers hope may help families, friends, teachers or others to become aware that a child is struggling.
Of the 20 young people facing current or pending exams or awaiting results, 11 were known to be stressed by their exams and four died on the day of an exam or the day after.
The findings come from the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, a collaboration of academics and other experts, who have collected data from Coroners’ inquests, official investigations and other case reviews.
The report, summarised in a paper in the Lancet Psychiatry journal, is the first of its kind. “There haven’t been very systematic studies of a very young group,” said Prof Louis Appleby, director of the inquiry at the University of Manchester.
The suicide rate is very low among the youngest children – there were 11 cases under the age of 15 in the year. But Appleby said: “Something happens to them in that five-year period from 15 to 20.”
She said it was “deeply alarming” that exam stress was a factor in many suicides. “It’s absolutely crucial that schools give as much focus to wellbeing as they do to academic achievement,” she said.
The full article can be read in the Guardian, but this highlights the importance of helping children learn to deal with stress, rather than allowing it to build to the level where suicide or self-harm becomes a possibility.
The problem is that children are often remarkably good at hiding signs of stress until it has reached danger levels, especially in the “difficult” teenage years where they tend to feel more isolated and misunderstood.
Our workshops can help teach children the skills they need to self-regulate stress, particularly exam stress.
Find out more and get upcoming dates here.