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Alarming Rise in Youth Suicide Attempts: Experts Call for Training to Help Children in Crisis

EDUCATIONAlarming Rise in Youth Suicide Attempts: Experts Call for Training to Help Children in Crisis

The number of suicide attempts among individuals under 18 is growing at an alarming rate. There is a less dynamic change in the number of attempts that result in death. This suggests an increase in mental and emotional issues among young people. Training is necessary to teach educators and parents how to recognize an emotional crisis in children, how to help a child with problems, and how to react if a suicide attempt occurs. Effective action requires cooperation between parents and teachers.

“Every day in Poland, six children try to take their lives, every year over 140 succeed. We must remember that we noticed the first increase in suicidal behavior among children and youth already in 2021, and this increase was more than 70% compared to 2020. In 2023 compared to 2022, there was a small increase of just over 2%. However, these statistics are still serious, as still over 2,000 children in Poland attempt suicide each year,” says Dr. Halszka Witkowska, head of the project Life is Worth Talking About, expert for the Polish Suicidal Society, and Mental Health Office for Suicide Prevention of the Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology in Warsaw.

In 2021, 1,496 children and teenagers under 18 attempted to take their own lives, 127 of these attempts were successful. Compared to the previous year, this represented an increase of 77% and 19% respectively. There was a particularly large increase in suicide attempts among girls; in 2021 there were over twice as many as the previous year. In the case of boys, the number was only 410, but far more suicide attempts in their case resulted in death. For comparison, in 2012 there were only 152 suicide attempts, in 2023 – already 1994. The number of suicides did not change as drastically: in the last decade it fluctuated between 100 and 150. This indicates that a suicide attempt may be a cry for help.

The authors of the project Life is Worth Talking About, in collaboration with the Adamed Foundation, have developed the Supporting School program to prevent suicidal behavior among children and youth. The pilot stage of the program demonstrated a strong demand for deeper knowledge in the field of emotional first aid, noticing a child’s crisis, and also supporting a student after a suicide attempt at school.

The program assumes primarily free training for teachers, which will enhance their competence in preventing suicides and helping young people in crisis. An important aspect is educational meetings for parents and the opportunity for individual consultations, both for teachers and parents. A crisis procedure should be worked out and applied in case a suicide attempt or a child’s crisis occurs. The school must then know how to react appropriately.

“A crisis procedure in school is incredibly important because we need to know what to do to give young people a sense of being accompanied by a responsible adult who knows how to react correctly in this situation. Our program Helping School helps to prepare such procedures in the correct way,” says Halszka Witkowska. “Even after the program ends, the school can still contact the Life is Worth Talking About service and make use of free consultations. We remain in constant contact and are always available.”

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