Suicide in juveniles and adolescents in the United Kingdom

Authors

  • Kirsten Windfuhr,

    1. National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, Centre for Suicide Prevention, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL
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  • David While,

    1. National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, Centre for Suicide Prevention, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL
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  • Isabelle Hunt,

    1. National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, Centre for Suicide Prevention, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL
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  • Pauline Turnbull,

    1. National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, Centre for Suicide Prevention, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL
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  • Rebecca Lowe,

    1. National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, Centre for Suicide Prevention, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL
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  • Jimmy Burns,

    1. National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, Centre for Suicide Prevention, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL
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  • Nicola Swinson,

    1. National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, Centre for Suicide Prevention, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL
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  • Jenny Shaw,

    1. National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, Centre for Suicide Prevention, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL
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  • Louis Appleby,

    1. National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, Centre for Suicide Prevention, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL
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  • Navneet Kapur,

    1. National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, Centre for Suicide Prevention, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL
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  • the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness

    1. National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, Centre for Suicide Prevention, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL
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  • Conflict of interest statement: The National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness is funded by the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA), England. Louis Appleby is the National Director of Mental Health for England.

Kirsten Windfuhr, Centre for Suicide Prevention, National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, University of Manchester, Community Based Medicine University Place, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK; Tel: 0161-275-0737; Fax: 0161-275-0712; Email: kirsten.windfuhr@manchester.ac.uk

Abstract

Background:  Suicide is a leading cause of death among youths. Comparatively few studies have studied recent trends over time, or examined rates and characteristics of service contact in well-defined national samples.

Methods:  Data on general population suicides and mid-year population estimates were used to calculate suicide rates (per 100,000/year) among youths aged 10–19 years in the United Kingdom. We then determined the proportion of youths who had been in mental health service contact in the year prior to death. Social and clinical data were collected via questionnaires sent to clinicians who had provided care.

Results:  The general population rate of suicide was higher in males than females, and was higher in 15–19-year-olds compared to 10–14-year-olds. Suicide rates for 10–19-year-olds declined by 28% between 1 January 1997 and 31 December 2003 (compared with an 8% reduction in those aged >19 years); the fall was particularly marked for males. Mental health service contact was low at 14% (compared with 26% for adults), especially for males (12%). Youths in mental health contact were characterised by: diagnosis of affective disorder, mental illness history, residential instability, self-harm, and substance misuse. Over half of youths were living with parents and one-fifth were in full-time education.

Conclusions:  The suicide rate for 10–19-year-olds in the UK appeared to fall between 1997 and 2003. Further monitoring of suicide rates is needed to determine whether this trend has continued for the most recent years (e.g., 2004–7). The fall in rates may have been related to socio-economic or clinical factors. The rate of contact with services was low compared to adults, particularly in males. This is concerning because young males have the highest suicide rate in the UK. Suicide prevention in young people is likely to require a multi-agency approach.

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