Local MLAs have expressed shock at the ‘frightening statistic’ surrounding young people being admitted to Craigavon hospital as a result of self-harm.
In the wake of the death of a Tyrone schoolboy, who took his own life after being duped by cyber bullies, shock figures revealed in last week’s Leader showed that of 904 such cases at Craigavon in a nine month period, 43 were under the age of 16.
Only the Royal Victoria Hospital and Antrim Area Hospital had higher numbers of children presenting with self-harm or suicidal thoughts.
Across Northern Ireland almost 340 children under 16 have been admitted to A&E departments due to self-harm or suicidal thoughts.
Local MLA Sam Gardiner said: “This is a frightening statistic, especially considering it is only for a nine month period. Many people will be shocked that so many of our young people have gone through such a disturbing experience.
“I cannot begin to imagine the pain going through these young people’s minds and the distress that this causes on the wider family circle. Issues such as bullying, anxiety and body image may all be contributing to our younger generation’s poor emotional wellbeing, so all public bodies must now redouble their efforts to give our young people the support they clearly need.
“Unless young people who present at A&Es with these issues receive the support the need, their problems are likely to spiral into acute, long-term mental illness. If the problem goes unchecked the Health authorities are condemning a generation to risk of self–harm and suicide.”
Ulster Unionist Health spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson MLA added that local societal issues may be having an impact on the shocking revelation.
“Northern Ireland has one of the world’s highest rates of poor mental health and wellbeing,” she said. “The problem is prevalent across our adult population, but what is perhaps less well-known is how the issue affects our young people.
“Research from the Commission for Victims and Survivors found that children in Northern Ireland continue to remain a group impacted by legacy issues – directly, through exposure to ongoing violence and paramilitarism, and indirectly, through the effects of Troubles-related mental disorders on their parents.
“If the problem goes unchecked the Health authorities are condemning a generation to risk of self–harm and suicide.”
If you have been affected by such issues you can contact the Lifeline phone line for support - the number is 0808 808 8000.