September 24, 2009

Publication: Irish Examiner

Date: Thursday, September 24, 2009 Page: 2

Author: by Cormac O'Keeffe

Headline: Six-year old boy tried to hang himself

Researchhas found "alarming" evidence of deliberate self-harm among children aged between five and 11, including a six-year-old boy who tried to hang himself. The study in a Dublin children's hospital has revealed that 38 children in this age group either carried out or considered self-harm. This constituted 15% of 253 children aged between five and 16 who were deliberate self-harm (DSH) patients at the paediatric emergency department at Temple Street Children's Hospital between 2002 and 2006.

"A marked increase in the number of presentations was seen over the study period, with numbers doubling from 34 presentations in 2002, to 67 presentations in 2006," said the report. "An alarming finding on this stady was the number ofyoung children (under 12 years) presenting with DSH." It added: "There may be a trend for suicidal behaviour to be presenting in increasingly younger children over time, as numbers of very young children in this study are proportionately much greater than in previous studies.

"One of the youngest children in the present study was a six-year-old boy who made a very definite attempt to hang himself to get away from a family situation which was intolerable to him." The research, published in the Irish Journal' of Psychological Medicine, said 85 (33%) of the 253 cases involved DSH thoughts, while 168 (67%) involved DSH attempts. It found that self-poisoning .(62%) was by far the most common method of self-harm. This was followed by self-cutting (16%); strangulation (11%) and aerosol inhalation (7%). In the self-poisoning group 12% involved paracetamol alone; 43% used other 'over the counter' medication; 29% used prescription drugs and 15% illegal substances.

The study found a "high burden" of risk factors:

• Two-thirds were from non- intact families.

• Over half had a history of previous DSH.

•'Over half had a documented Sychiatric condition.

•One quarter were out of school.

• One quarter were in residentialcare.

It said arguments tended to precede incidents "of DSH and that 9% said they had been bullied beforehand. The authors, all staff! at the hospital, said that "much more" DSH occurs in the cpmmunity and doesnot come to medical attention.

A previous survey found thatonly 15% of teenagers aged 15-17who self harmed sought medical help. The research found 28 children accounted for 78 repeat presentations and that 54% of these wereliving in care. •

• Contacts: Samaritans:1850-609090; HSE suicide prevention helpline: 1800-742745(between 6pm and 10pm); Console: 01-6102638

Percentage breakdown Living arrangements of people who self-harm:

• Two-parent family: 34%

• One-parent famity: 32%

• Extended family: 2%

• In care: 23%

• Homeless: 4%

• Unknown: 5%