Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Child suicide levels down: Report

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald saysIreland is generally a great place to grow up in

Childhood suicide accounted for more than a fifth of all deaths among 10 to 17-year-olds in 2011, a report has revealed.

Sixteen youngsters in that age group took their own lives while almost 1,000 were admitted to hospital with self-harm injuries.

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the figures highlighted the need for early intervention to support vulnerable youths. "If we don't intervene, the cost will be very high to society," she warned.

Figures in the new State of the Nation's Children Report showed childhood suicide in 2011 was higher among boys - with 13 taking their own lives compared with three girls.

However, the number of 10 to 17-year-olds who died by suicide in 2011 was down from the previous three years. In 2010, there were 19 suicides within the age group, 19 in 2009 and 25 in 2008.

The report, published by Ms Fitzgerald, found that 904 children in the 10 to 17 age group were admitted to a hospital emergency department in 2011 following deliberate self-harm.

While suicide was higher among boys, self-harm was almost twice as high among girls with 588 intentionally hurting themselves compared with 316 boys. Meanwhile, 435 youngsters were admitted to a psychiatric hospital in 2011.

Ms Fitzgerald said the report was "generally very positive", describing Ireland as "a great place to grow up in". She pointed out that the country's 1,148,687 children account for a quarter of the population. The number of children increased by 13.4% between 2002 and 2011, meaning Ireland now has the highest proportion of children of any European Union country.

While many of the report's findings were positive - with an increase in youngsters admitting they have never smoked, a decrease in teenage pregnancy and a 45.1% drop in the number of children on a hospital waiting list - a string of other negative points were highlighted.

About one in every nine primary school children missed 20 days or more in the school year while around one in every six secondary school children missed 20 days or more. Ms Fitzgerald said rates of obesity among young girls were also "very disturbing".

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