Expert Warns About Lack of Comprehensive Strategy for Prevention of Child Suicide

By 15 May 2022
Expert Warns About Lack of Comprehensive Strategy for Prevention of Child Suicide
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ZAGREB, 15 May 2022 - Commenting for Hina on data on suicide attempts and suicides in children and young people, psychologist Andreja Bogdan has called for paying more attention to the problem, warning that Croatia lacks a comprehensive national programme for the prevention of suicide in children and young people. 

"Since 2013 there has been no comprehensive, nation-wide, evaluated programme for the prevention of suicide among children and young people, and the problem is mostly dealt with by individual nongovernmental organisations," Bogdan said when asked to comment on information that in 2021 seven children committed suicide and 63 attempted to commit suicide.

The Ministry of the Interior has confirmed that last year seven persons under the age of 18 committed suicide, which is less than in 2020, when there were 10 suicide cases in that age group, but more than in 2019, when six persons under 18 committed suicide.

The suicides committed by children and young people in 2021 accounted for 1.22% of the total number of suicides committed that year, in 2020 they accounted for 1.77% of all suicides that year and in 2019 for 1.06% of all suicides.

A ministry statistical report for 2018 shows that that year three children under 14 committed suicide while 15 attempted to commit suicide and that seven in the age group 15-18 committed suicide while 54 tried to commit it.

Bogdan notes that the official statistics on suicide may vary from the actual numbers because in some cases, such as an attempt to commit suicide with drugs, by poisoning or by using a car, it is difficult to determine intent so such a suicide or suicide attempt is registered as a car accident, poisoning, accidental fall, etc.

She notes that research shows that suicide is one of the leading causes of death from injuries in Croatia.

The psychologist notes that suicidal thoughts and attempts to commit suicide are more frequent at a young age than later in life.

"The rate of suicide attempts or suicides in young people is the highest in the age group 14-19, with males being more at risk both among children and adults," she says, noting that growing up in today's society is not simple and is accompanied by many challenges and questions important for children's personal identity.

On top of that, children are likely to act on impulse and seek excitement and are less aware of the consequences of their behaviour, Bogdan says.

Among the more important risk factors are parents' unemployment and low income, parents not having a close relationship with their children, low level of parental supervision and divorce, mental illnesses in parents, and early parental death.

Children who are victims of peer violence, cyberbullying, children suffering from depression and anxiety disorders, children who use drugs and children with behavioural issues are more at risk of developing suicidal thoughts and behaviour.

Bogdan, a former president of the Croatian Chamber of Psychologists, has objections to the way the policy of suicide prevention has been implemented in the past few years.

"There are individual events dedicated to the issue of suicide and expert training, but there is no clear, structured and continuous implementation of evaluated, scientifically based programmes," she says.

Since 2013 there has been no comprehensive, evaluated programme for the prevention of suicide in children and young people at the national level, and the problem of prevention is most often dealt with by nongovernmental organisations, she says, noting that children and young people lack sufficient information of who to contact for help when in distress.

The experience of work on hotlines for psychological support to children and adolescents, initiated by the Central State Demography and Youth Office shows that children and young people are not likely to talk about their problems or seek psychological help on the telephone, which underlines even more the need for educational institutions to have  mental health experts, Bogdan says.

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