Frightening survey reveals quarter of teens have felt suicidal

The Irish Independent

By Eilish O’Regan Health Correspondent Tuesday June 07 2011

More than one-in-four young people has felt suicidal in the past, a new survey reveals.

And one in five said they had self-harmed, the report into adolescent mental health showed.

Although emotional distress is felt by both sexes, girls have battled psychological stress more than boys with nearly one in three admitting to feeling suicidal at some stage.

The results were described yesterday as “disturbing and heartbreaking” by Melanie Verwoerd, chief executive of UnicefIreland, which carried out the survey.

Ms Verwoerd, who will launch the report entitled ‘Change the Future: Experiencing Youth in Contemporary Ireland’ in Dublintoday, said the pain that many 16- to 20-year-olds experienced was evident not just in the statistics, “but also in the comments made by many brave young people who took part in the survey”.

The online study revealed:

?Half of young people surveyed reported that they had suffered from depression.

?More than one in 10 said they suffered from anorexia/ bulimia.

More girls struggled with mental health problems, with 32pc saying they had felt suicidal compared to 24pc of boys.

They are also hit in higher numbers by depression, with 59pc suffering the condition compared to 49pc of boys.

And they are also more likely to self-harm — 27pc of girls admit to this compared to 16pc of boys.

Significantly more girls suffer from eating disorders — nearly one-in-four girls (23pc) had anorexia or bulimia compared to 2pc of boys.

Some of the young people are fighting a series of problems including depression, feeling suicidal and eating disorders.

Significantly, there is a clear link between bullying and the young people reporting serious emotional distress.

It showed that two-thirds of young people who reported being bullied had suffered depression, self-harm and felt suicidal.

Many of these young people remain troubled — 41pc said the problem they suffered was ongoing, including 73pc of girls.

The young people with on-going mental health issues rises until the age of 19 and then there is a noticeable fall at the age of 20.

The report notes that many of these teens are not receiving any treatment. Just 18pc of those who reported ongoing troubles said they were receiving help.

Only 14pc of young people in Ireland specifically reported that they had not felt or suffered from any of these mental health problems in the past.


Ms Verwoerd said: “With one in every two young people reporting that they have experienced depression, the scale and importance of the task of promoting positive adolescent mental health should not be underestimated.

“This is a serious problem and should be dealt with as a matter of urgency.”

She pointed out: “In many cases, individual young people experience the overlap of issues such as depression, eating disorders, self-harm, etc.

“This suggests that services which seek to promote and defend the right to positive mental health must be integrated and comprehensive in addressing the myriad needs identified by the young person themselves.”

The results are based on a representative sample of 508 teenagers between the ages of 16 and 20 who responded to an online survey — some of whom took part in forums organised by Unicef. This is the second in a series of four reports based on research carried out at the end of last year.


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