The rate of teenage suicides in London is increasing faster than across the rest of England and Wales, leading to warnings of a “pressure cooker of conditions” facing young people in the capital.
There were 29 deaths by suicide among 10- to 19-year-olds in 2015-16, compared with 14 in 2013-14 – an increase of 107%. In England and Wales, the number of such deaths rose by 24% from 148 to 184.
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to the Brent Centre for Young People in north London under the 2000 Freedom of Information Act show the overall number of suicides registered in London increased by 48% in the three-year period, compared with an overall 3% decrease in England and Wales.
The centre called for more investment in mental health services and education to prevent a “needless waste of young lives”.
Dr Maxim de Sauma, the chief executive of the centre, which supports more than 600 young people with mental health problems each year, said: “When young people with crippling or disabling mental health conditions are not given the support they need, it wastes lives.
“People are much more over-pressured here than they are in other parts of the UK. Parents are less able to prioritise difficulties because they are under a lot of stress. It goes on from one generation to another, so the damage is continuous.”
Valentina Levi, an adolescent psychotherapist at the centre, said it had been “flooded” with cases over the past year and she was worried frontline workers were only able to see a small number of young people at risk.
“In the last year, we have had double the amount of referrals as in the previous year, but we are still working with the same resources,” she said.
Levi also cautioned against a focus on stereotypes regarding the individuals concerned.
“It’s true that we are seeing, for example, young men who are from very deprived backgrounds, and of course there has been much talk lately about knife crime and its impact. But we also have to recognise that this is an issue across all groups,” she said.
“Another might be young women who are from middle-class backgrounds and who feel very isolated and under pressure for a range of reasons.”
Last month, Barnardo’s warned that Britain is facing a mental health crisisbecause resources for children are so stretched that some only receive help if they seriously self-harm or try to kill themselves.
Javed Khan, the chief executive of the children’s charity, said young people’s mental health had never been worse in the organisation’s 152-year history. Radical action was needed, he said, because funding cuts had forced charities to abandon vital services.
A spokesperson for the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, said: “These are deeply worrying figures. Sadiq wants London to be a place where people can speak openly about their mental health and the support they need.
“That’s why Sadiq has made the issue one of his priorities and is working hard through his Thrive LDN campaign to improve Londoners’ awareness and understanding of mental health, remove the stigma and achieve real improvements in access to support and care for those who need it.”
- In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org