Belfast Telegraph

Bid to break down reluctance of young men to talk about suicidal thoughts 

By Jill Goligher

Young men in Northern Ireland are twice as likely to die by suicide than girls — but far less likely to speak up, a charity has warned.

Childline is encouraging boys to speak out after new figures revealed they are more reluctant to talk to counsellors about ending their lives.

In the last year Childline delivered twice as many counselling sessions to girls as boys in Northern Ireland — 70 for young males and 168 for females.

Yet many more males aged between 10 and 19 died by suicide than females in 2015.

Overall, the NSPCC-run service delivered 349 counselling sessions to children across Northern Ireland who had suicidal thoughts and feelings, but experts warn the true figure is likely to be higher.

Today Childline is launching a new campaign — Tough to Talk — backed by Manchester United and England star Wayne Rooney.

Rooney, an NSPCC ambassador, said: “Growing up in the world of football, I know there can be a stigma attached to young men showing emotion and talking about their feelings. 

“It can be seen as a weakness, but the opposite is true and it takes great strength to open up and reach out for help.”

Praising the campaign, Rooney added: “Hopefully Childline’s Tough to Talk campaign will help young people, and boys in particular, see that they are not alone and it’s okay to speak out.  They don’t need to suffer in silence. 

“I would encourage any young person struggling with suicidal thoughts to talk to someone they trust, or contact Childline.”

The campaign includes a film entitled Things Guys Don’t Talk About, aimed at empowering boys to seek support for their suicidal feelings.

Boys who contacted Childline talked about a range of issues including relationship worries, abuse and bullying, along with having thoughts of suicide. One young person told the charity: “I keep having suicidal thoughts and I feel like I need to speak to someone. 

“I have thought about telling my mum, but I think she will say that I just need to get over it. I have exams coming up, but I haven’t been able to concentrate because of these thoughts.”

The NSPCC in Northern Ireland is calling for the Department of Health’s suicide prevention strategy to have a greater focus on children.

Neil Anderson, who is the head of the NSPCC here, said: “We need to see a greater focus on children and young people when looking at how we can tackle the issues around suicide in Northern Ireland. 

“Northern Ireland has had the highest suicide rate for 10 to 14-year-olds, and it is vital that young people get the support they need as early as possible so they do not reach the point where they are in crisis.

“Children need to be able to access the services they need, when they need them most.”

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