Youth worker and founder of Impact Wellbeing, Jude Sellen, believes the increase in young people being seen in A and E after a suicide attempt is not due to more mental ill health but a need for adults to change the ways we support children's emotional development
Here we go again arguably putting two and two together and making 10!
We are yes, sadly seeing many more children in A and E departments across the country who have attempted to kill themselves.
Those of us who work in children’s services like myself, are hearing many more young people talk about wanting to end their lives, than some years ago. This is hugely worrying and distressing.
Whether we had more money or not, I believe offering ‘treatment’ is not the answer.
Why? Many children and young people who try to kill themselves who receive a mental health assessment do not qualify for access to specialist CAMHS. They do not meet a diagnostic category. They are not unwell.
So what happens? Many families continue to tell me they are not getting support. Support to make sense of why a young person may have wanted to die, what to do to keep them safe, anyone to explain what’s going on.
Post discharge, children often remain or quickly return to a heightened anxious state and a hospital admission can compound their disposition to hold feelings of shame, self-blame and embarrassment.
This is not a place in which children and young people feel able to use inner help seeking skills.
They are frequently instead being left in a state of physiological and emotional exhaustion.
I believe that young people frequently want to die not because they want to take their lives by suicide, but rather they can’t make sense of the ‘noise in their head’.
Ever increasing physical sensations of feeling sick, agitated, loss of concentration and so forth. Many, do not actually want to leave this planet forever.
Are we asking the right questions of young people who try to take their lives? I would say no we are not!
The way we talk with young people about suicide and our view about why more children talk about, attempt, contemplate suicide needs to be reviewed.
As communities of adults we do not seem to be able to get our heads around the need to change the ways in which we support children’s emotional development.
The increase in these extremely sad and distressing behaviours as experienced by children are communications by children to us as adults.
Young people and children need access to information about not only, how to:
- notice physical sensations
- monitor the relationship between their physical and mental wellbeing.
But what is getting in the way of this happening.
I am not saying that no child will have a diagnosis, and thereby require treatment. I am saying for many the answers to reducing young people pressing the ‘get out’/suicide button require local communities and the adults who care for them to develop very different services and levels of support.
Families and schools provide amazing potential to get more information out there about the mind/body balance – how to achieve it and maintain it.
We need to be proactive in facilitating a cultural shift that sees physical and mental health as not requiring separate ways of self-care, but a unified approach.
We need to listen to what children are communicating the only way they now know how to.
Not pathologise their behaviour but take a shared responsibility and approach to supporting them move from an angst ridden place, to one of increased inner peace and self-care.