Nav: Home

Children at increased risk of suicide

May 25, 2017

Teenagers injured through drinking, drug abuse or self-harming have a five-fold increased risk of dying from suicide in the next decade.

Children and young people admitted to hospital in England with injuries related to self-harming, drugs or alcohol faced an increased risk of killing themselves over the following 10 years, according to new research.

While previous studies have shown that children and adolescents who self-harm are at a higher risk of suicide, the paper by academics from UCL and the University of Leeds, argues that the risks apply to a larger group of adolescents.

The researchers say children injured through drink or drugs faced a similar increased risk of suicide as children who had been self-harming - and the National Health Service needed to revise its guidelines to target help and support at these young people.

The study examined anonymous hospital data relating to more than one million young people aged 10 to 19 who were admitted to an emergency department in England between 1997 and 2012 having suffered an injury.

The injuries were categorised as having been caused either accidentally - or through 'adversity', where the injuries were self-inflicted, from drug or alcohol abuse, or violence. The research team then looked at what had happened to the young people in the decade following the hospital admission.

They found that the death rate among the group which had suffered the adversity-related injuries was twice as high as the youngsters who had suffered the accidental injuries.

Among the adversity group, the death rate for girls was 7.3 per 1,000 - and 15.6 per 1,000 for boys. Two-thirds of the deaths were attributable to suicide, drug or alcohol misuse or to homicide, according to the research which is published in the Lancet.

One of the key findings of the study was that the risk of suicide was similar between young people who had self-harmed and those who had misused drugs or alcohol - an observation not been reported in medical journals until now.

The suicide rate of these young people was about five-times of that seen in the accidental injury group. The researchers also found that young people who had self-inflicted injuries were just as likely to die from drug and alcohol misuse as from suicide.

The increased rates of deaths from suicide or drug and alcohol misuse in the adversity group resulted in an additional 1,075 deaths - 683 boys and 392 girls.

This was an observational study, so it can increase our understanding of possible links between self-inflicted injury and suicide, but it doesn't show that one necessarily causes the other because other factors could be involved.

Young Minds is a UK charity seeking to promote better mental health among adolescents. Its chief executive, Sarah Brennan, said: "This ground-breaking research demonstrates some of the interconnections between self-harm, substance misuse and violent injury - and the tragic consequences that these experiences may have. "It is essential that we don't think of young people simply in terms of a list of "issues", and that we understand how distress can be expressed in different ways at different times."

The study showed young people are arriving at hospital with injuries which are not being identified as 'red flags' of an increased risk of a premature death.

David Cottrell, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Leeds and one of the investigators, said: "Clinicians have not fully appreciated the risks facing children and young people who arrive in hospital emergency departments having suffered an adversity-related injury.

"It is well established that children who self-harm are at an increased risk of suicide.

"But the research points to that fact that the risk extends to a much broader group. Children and young people who suffered injuries through drink or drugs or violence also faced an increased risk of suicide or premature death through alcohol and drug behaviours."

"These young people are coming into contact with the health services and that means there's an opportunity for them to get help and support. Based on this evidence, official guidance given to staff in emergency departments needs to be reviewed so these young people are also seen as being at risk."

It is standard practice for a mental health professional to assess a young person who has a self-inflicted injury, but that does not extend to those injuries related to misusing alcohol or drugs or to violence.

The researchers say mental health support should also be targeted at all children suffering adversity-related injuries. Dr Annie Herbert, from UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Healthcare, said: "A huge amount of deaths after adversity-related injury in our study were from suicide or drug or alcohol abuse, which to an extent should be preventable.

"More research is needed to find the best way for clinicians to support these children and young people, to reduce risks of future harm after they leave hospital."

Professor Ruth Gilbert, from UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, said: "Our findings show the enormous value of using routinely collected patient data to spot opportunities for the NHS to intervene to reduce the risk of harm for vulnerable patients, many of whom come back to hospital time and again."
-end-
Note to Editors

1, A proof copy of the Lancet report can be downloaded here. This copy will be subject to changes ahead of publication: https://goo.gl/8vvdy4

2, To interview Professor David Cottrell, please contact David Lewis in the University of Leeds press office on (+44) 0113 343 8059 or emaild.lewis@leeds.ac.uk

3, To interview Dr Annie Herbert, please contact Rowan Walker at UCL on (+44) 020 3108 8515 or email rowan.walker@ucl.ac.uk

4, About UCL (University College London)

UCL was founded in 1826. We were the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to open up university education to those previously excluded from it, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are among the world's top universities, as reflected by performance in a range of international rankings and tables. UCL currently has over 38,000 students from 150 countries and over 12,000 staff. Our annual income is more than £1 billion. http://www.ucl.ac.uk | Follow us on Twitter @uclnews | Watch our YouTube channel YouTube.com/UCLTV

5, About University of Leeds

The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK, with more than 33,000 students from 147 different countries, and a member of the Russell Group research-intensive universities. We are a top 10 university for research and impact power in the UK, according to the2014 Research Excellence Framework, and positioned as one of the top 100 best universities in the world in the 2015 QS World University Rankings. We are The Times and The Sunday Times University of the Year 2017 http://www.leeds.ac.uk

6, Young Minds is a specialist charity for children and young people's mental health in the UK

7, The research was funded by the UK Department of Health.

University of Leeds

Related Mental Health Articles:

The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health: Mental health harms related to very frequent social media use in girls might be due to exposure to cyberbullying, loss of sleep or reduced physical activity
Very frequent use of social media may compromise teenage girls' mental health by increasing exposure to bullying and reducing sleep and physical exercise, according to an observational study of almost 10,000 adolescents aged 13-16 years studied over three years in England between 2013-2015, published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.
Can Facebook improve your mental health?
Contrary to popular belief, using social media and the internet regularly could improve mental health among adults and help fend off serious psychological distress, such as depression and anxiety, finds a new Michigan State University study.
A gut feeling for mental health
The first population-level study on the link between gut bacteria and mental health identifies specific gut bacteria linked to depression and provides evidence that a wide range of gut bacteria can produce neuroactive compounds.
Mental health care increasing most among those with less distress
A new study shows that more Americans are getting outpatient mental health care and the rate of serious psychological distress is decreasing.
On-again, off-again relationships might be toxic for mental health
A researcher from the University of Missouri says that the pattern of breaking up and getting back together can impact an individual's mental health and not for the better.
Could mental health apps lead to overdiagnosis?
Mental health app marketing commonly presents mental health problems as ubiquitous and individuals as responsible for mental wellbeing; overdiagnosis and denial of the social factors related to mental health could result.
Student-run mental health education efforts may improve college mental health climate
Studies estimate that 20 percent to 36 percent of college students cope with some form of serious psychological distress, yet only about a third receive any services despite the fact they often have access to on-campus help.
How mental health diagnosis should be more collaborative
New research published in The Lancet Psychiatry finds that mental health diagnosis should be more collaborative.
Self-rating mental health as 'good' predicts positive future mental health
Researchers have found that when a person rates their current mental health as 'positive' despite meeting criteria for a mental health problem, it can predict good mental health in the future, even without treatment.
Medicating for mental health
University of Guelph researchers found evidence that a single bout of exhaustive exercise protects against acute olanzapine-induced hyperglycemia.
More Mental Health News and Mental Health Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.