Suicide and self harm levels among children and young people remain worryingly high

31 August 2016 News

Commenting on the Registrar General Annual Report 2015, released today, the Commissioner has expressed her continuing concern that the number of young people who have taken their own lives remains too high, and that the number of young people, particularly under 16’s, who have self harmed is rising sharply. She urges Government to invest in and prioritise the emotional wellbeing of children and young people here.

Koulla Yiasouma, NI Commissioner for Children and Young People said,

“Behind every suicide statistic is a tragic loss of a life and devastated families and friends.

“Suicide is a highly complex issue to which there are no easy solutions. The legacy of the conflict and high levels of deprivation and mental ill-health create a uniquely challenging set of circumstances for Northern Ireland.

“I have been reassured that our children and young people’s mental health and well-being is on the agenda for the Executive Committee and look forward to seeing how the imminent Protect Life Strategy will deal with this issue . I have also seen firsthand, high quality services with dedicated health professionals working day in and day out with children and young people who have mental health needs. 

“However, these recent suicide statistics and the broader emotional and mental health needs of our young people, show that the Northern Ireland Government  must, as a matter of urgency, prioritise our children and young people’s mental health and refocus budget to this area of need.”

The Commissioner draws attention to the recent examination of Government by the Committee on the Rights of the Child,

“The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has recently examined the UK’s performance against its commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“The committee highlighted the need for ‘rigorous’ investment in child and adolescent mental health services which reflected the issues they hear, particularly from young people.”

The Commissioner explains that addressing suicide is not just a health matter,

“Every Government department, and their agencies, have a vital role in addressing the root causes of poor mental health in children and young people. Education, in particular, has an important role in promoting emotional and mental wellbeing and identifying need.

“Frontline crisis services are vital, but these must be complemented with earlier intervention to improve young people’s emotional resilience, and prevent them from becoming suicidal.

“Mental health services, from prevention through to crisis support, needs urgent investment.

“During my term in office I aim to make sure that young people’s mental health becomes a greater priority for government.”


Notes to Editors

For more information please contact Patrice Morris Communications Officer at or 028 9031 1616, mobile – 07917 544 177.

Suicide Statistics

  1. Between 2014 and 2015 registered suicides increased from 268 to 318 and figures for 0-19’s decreased from 18 to 17. (There is a period of time between when a suicide occurs and when the death is registered, therefore a number of suicide deaths registered in any year may have occurred in earlier years.)
  2. Between 2012/13 and 2013/14 there was a 14% increase in under 16’s presenting to A&E due to self harm
  3. On average there is 10 years between young people displaying first symptoms and getting help, even though half of all mental health problems have become established by the age of 14. Khan, L. (2016) Missed opportunities: A review of recent evidence onto children and young people’s mental health and DoH (2015) Future in mind: promoting, protecting, and improving our children and young people’s mental health and well being
  4. NICCY published a report in 2012 called ‘Still Vulnerable: The Impact of Early Childhood Experiences on Adolescent Suicide and Accidental Death’. This outlines how exposure to problems in early childhood is linked to poor outcomes in later years, including suicide in adolescence.
  5. The Committee on the Rights of the Child, has recently examined the UK State Party against its commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and made a robust statement regarding the need for rigorous investment in child and adolescent mental health services.
  6. The ongoing lack of parity in funding between physical and mental health was also recently criticised by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in their examination of the UK government and devolved administrations.

Signposting to Services

If you are worried about yourself, a friend, or family member, please talk to someone. Contact ChildLine online or on 0800 1111. ChildLine is open 24 hours a day.

Parents Support Helpline 0808 8010 722 – free and confidential service for support and guidance about any parenting issue.

Reporting on this Issue

Certain types of suicide reporting are particularly harmful and can act as a catalyst to influence the behaviour of people who are already vulnerable. This press release has been written using guidance from: