April 3, 2009

Publication: Sunday Independent

Date: Sunday, March 29, 2009 Page: 8


Headline: Huge increase in children treated for self-harming

More than 170 children and teenagers were treated at Temple Street Children's hospital last year for deliberate self- harm, the Sunday Indepen- dent has learned. The shocking figures repre- sent a 40 per cent increase on* the previous year, according to Professor Carol Fitzpatrick. The increase in self-harm admissions to the accident and emergency department among children and teenagers comes as a helpline reports that more and more young people are deeply worried by the recession and its impact of job losses on their parents and families. Self-harm can be potentially life-threatening but may not have suicidal intent.

"Most of the young people presenting to the accident and emergency unit with symptoms of self-harm are aged between 11 and 16 years, with the numbers higher among the 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds," Professor Fitzpatrick told the Sunday Independent. Professor Fitzpatrick will be discussing what action parents can take, at the Console annual conference on suicide this Thursday. She believes families can play a vital role in recognising symptoms of depression in children and young people. She will also discuss what parents can do if their children are showing signs of depression or suicidal tendencies.

"Parents may feel overwhelmed, afraid to intervene for fear of making a bad situation worse. But they can help greatly by noticing and attempting to communicate with their young person," she says. New figures show that two per cent of children and four to five per cent of adolescents can suffer from depressive disorders. Professor Fitzpatrick said parents should seek help if their child's behaviour changes markedly at home, at school or in their social relationships. Parents and family members should also seek help if there is evidence of suicidal pre-occupations, self harm or the young person is using alcohol or drugs to excess. "Communicating with someone who is in despair is not easy, and words may be hard to find, but the presence, interest and support of parents and friends can make a huge difference.

Counselling and therapy services for young people are under-resourced, but discussion with family doctors or school counsellors may help to clarify what is available," she said. "The difficulty for parents is recognising if this behaviour is just a normal phase of teenage life or something a bit more serious; has the young person got a mental health problem like depression which is quite common in adolescents? "The teaching is that depression is more common among young women but young men do find it very dif- ficult to communicate around those sort of feelings, so my view is that depression is underdiagnosed in young men," she added. Meanwhile, Teen Line founder Maureen Bolger (teenline.ie) said there has been a sharp increase in the number of youngsters telephoning their helpline worried about the impact of the recession on their families.

"They are worried about what is happening in their own families, about parents losing their jobs and issues like mortgage repayments," she said. Calls to the helpline (freep- hone 1800 833-534) have increased dramatically in recent months. The helpline is open on Wednesdays, 3pm-6pm; Thursdays, Fridays and Sat- urdays, 9pm-12 midnight; and on Sundays from 8pm-llpm., Youngsters who use the helpline don't need credit to call from their mobile phone or need any change to call from a public phone box.

Console's 2009 National Conference on suicide takes place this Thursday, April 2, in the CityWest Hotel, Saggart Co Dublin, and is open to everyone. For further details, tel: (01) 6102638 or e-mail: info@console.ie, or see www.console.ie