Children and young people who die by suicide: childhood-related antecedents, gender differences and service contact

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Worldwide suicide is commonest in young people and in many countries, including the UK, suicide rates in young people are rising.

To investigate the stresses young people face before they take their lives, their contact with services that could be preventative and whether these differ in girls and boys.

We identified a 3-year UK national consecutive case series of deaths by suicide in people aged 10–19, based on national mortality data. We extracted information on the antecedents of suicide from official investigations, primarily inquests.

Between 2014 and 2016, there were 595 suicides by young people, almost 200 per year; 71% were male (n = 425). Suicide rates increased from the mid-teens, most deaths occurred in those aged 17–19 (443, 74%). We obtained data about the antecedents of suicide for 544 (91%). A number of previous and recent stresses were reported including witnessing domestic violence, bullying, self-harm, bereavement (including by suicide) and academic pressures. These experiences were generally more common in girls than boys, whereas drug misuse (odds ratio (OR) = 0.54, 95% CI 0.35–0.83, P = 0.006) and workplace problems (OR 0.52, 95% CI 0.28–0.96, P = 0.04) were less common in girls. A total of 329 (60%) had been in contact with specialist children's services, and this was more common in girls (OR 1.86, 95% CI 1.19–2.94, P = 0.007).

There are several antecedents to suicide in young people, particularly girls, which are important in a multiagency approach to prevention incorporating education, social care, health services and the third sector. Some of these may also have contributed to the recent rise.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalBJPsych Open
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2020

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