Craigavon Hospital’s A&E has one of the highest admission levels of children due to self-harm or suicidal thoughts in the past nine months in Northern Ireland.
Figures released in an answer to an Assembly question revealed that of the 904 such cases at Craigavon 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.
Indeed across Northern Ireland almost 340 children under 16 have been admitted to A&E departments due to self-harm or suicidal thoughts.
Upper Bann MLA and Ulster Unionist Party Health spokeswoman Jo-Anne Dobson expressed shock at the information given to her party in relation to the period from 1 April to 31 December 2014.
Branding the statistic “frightening”, she said: “Northern Ireland has one of the world’s highest rates of poor mental health and wellbeing.
“The problem is prevalent across our adult population, but what is perhaps less well-known is how the issue affects our young people.
“Figures were not available for other years we sought, so in reality the situation is likely to be much worse.”
The figures during that nine-month period were highest at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast where, of the 1,280 people who presented with self-harm or suicidal thoughts, 51 were under the age of 16. Antrim Area, the Ulster, and Craigavon Area Hospital all saw more than 40 such children under 16.
The figures may be slightly skewed as they may include some people who attended A&E more than once, but whose visits were recorded separately.
However, Ms Dobson said it was clear that poor mental health was having a major impact on children.
“Issues such as bullying, anxiety and body image may all be contributing to our younger generation’s poor emotional wellbeing,” she said.
“I suspect, however, there may also be other more local societal issues.
“For instance, 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.”
Presentation figures at Accident and Emergency for self-harm/suicidal thoughts at some local hospitals were as follows:
Royal Victoria Hospital 1,280 such cases – 51 under age of 16; Craigavon Area Hospital 904 such cases – 43 under age of 16;
Daisy Hill Hospital 345 such cases – 19 under age of 16;
Lagan Valley Hospital 115 such cases – 8 under age of 16; Downe Hospital 56 such cases – 3 under 16.