Suicide-levels among children in care nearly 10 times average

Suicide levels among young people in contact with the State’s child protection services are almost 10 times the rate of those who are not.

Dr Ella Arensman, director of research at the National Suicide Research Foundation, described the findings as “extremely worrying”.

She was responding to the recent report by the Independent Child Death Review Group, which looked at the deaths of 196 children who died while in contact with state services between 2000 and 2010.

Thirty-six children and young people were in the care of the HSE at the time of their deaths, 32 were in aftercare, and 128 were known to the HSE.

The report found that 112 died from non-natural causes, and in 25% of cases, death was due to suicide.

An analysis of the report by the foundation showed that between 2005 and 2009, the average rate of suicide per 100,000 for adolescents aged between 15 and 19 in care, aftercare or known to the HSE for the period from 2005 to 2009 was 117, compared with 12 for the general population.

Ms Arensman said she was “very concerned” at the high rate of suicide among this group of very vulnerable people.

She said the findings highlighted the “urgent need” for increased awareness of suicidal behaviour among professionals working in health and social services.

“It is particularly worrying that among many of the children who died by suicide, the health and social services were not ready to take on these complex situations and failed to improve the quality of the lives of these children.

“National and international research conducted over the past three decades has consistently pointed out the increased risk of suicidal behaviour among children who have experienced sexual, physical abuse and emotional neglect in childhood and adolescence.

“The risk of suicide is further compounded by substance abuse and if there has been inconsistent parenting or caring.

“The report of the Child Death Review Group underlines the need for training of professionals working in health and social services to improve their skills and confidence in working with people at risk of suicide.”

The analysis was carried out by Dr Arensman, Dr Paul Corcoran, and Claire O’Halloran.

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