An alarmingly high number of Scottish adults aged 18-34 years old say they have attempted suicide, according to a new study.
Of 3,508 young people surveyed, one in nine (11.3%) reported having attempted suicide, while one in six (16.2%) said they had self-harmed at some stage in their lives.
Women were significantly more likely to report self-harm and suicide attempts compared to men.
[SEE ALSO: How to help a loved one who is suicidal]
The research, led by University of Glasgow and published today in the journal BJPsych Open, studied a sample of young adults from across Scotland. It found those who attempted suicide or self-harmed at younger ages were more likely to have frequent self-harm and suicide attempts. The first episode of self-harm tended to precede the first suicide attempt by about two years.
Almost one quarter (22.8%) of 18-34-year-olds reported having thought about suicide at some stage in their lives and 10.4% said they had last thought about suicide in the past 12 months.
Lead author, Professor Rory O’Connor, from the University’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing, said: “Suicide attempts and non-suicidal self-harm are major public health concerns that affect large numbers of young people. Until now, there have been few studies that estimated how common these thoughts and behaviours were in young adults in the country.
“These results are stark, and serve to highlight the scale of suicide attempts and self-harm in our country’s young people. The findings are timely given that the Scottish Government will soon publish a new suicide prevention action plan. We hope our findings also emphasise the importance to clinicians, and others involved in the care of young people, to be vigilant given that suicide attempts and self-harm are relatively common.”
The latest statistics for the UK show there’s been an overall decline in the number of registered suicides, with 3.6% fewer suicides registered in 2016 than in 2015. But there still appears to be an alarming number of people attempting.
The latest research echoes statistics from the Mental Health Foundation, which found one in 15 people (of all ages) had attempted suicide at some point in their life. Meanwhile new research from Self-Harm UK, The Mix and YoungMinds revealed more than a third (36%) of 16-25 year-olds in Britain have self-harmed.
Tom Madders, Director of Campaigns at YoungMinds, told HuffPost the new findings are “very concerning”.
“The causes of suicidal feelings can be complex and multiple, but we know that difficult experiences at a young age - like growing up in poverty, or dealing with bereavement or domestic violence - can have a serious impact on mental health, often several years down the line,” he said. “Young people also face a wide range of pressures, including stress at school or university, problems finding work, and the pressures associated with social media.”
While there is higher awareness around mental health than previously, Madders said “many young people still find it hard to reach out for help until they hit crisis point”.
“We need to ensure that there is proper funding for services, and that schools are well equipped to promote good mental health from a young age,” he said.
James Jopling, executive director for Scotland’s Samaritans, said: “This is an important, large-scale study detailing issues of real concern around both suicide attempts and levels of self-harm amongst young people in Scotland.
“Self-harm and suicide attempts are different behaviours, however they are closely related and we do know that many people who take their own lives have self-harmed.”
He added that more people under 29 die from suicide in Scotland than all cancers added together. “That scale of problem demands more of our efforts to properly address it,” he said. “We are losing too many young lives in Scotland too soon to suicide. We must do more.”
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org