Poverty, exposure to suicide increase risk of young people taking their own lives
Young people are more at risk of taking their own lives if they have been exposed to others' suicide attempts, a study shows.
It also found the risk of both suicide attempts and repeated non-suicidal self-injury was highest among females, students living in poverty, and students reporting an episode of low mood in the previous 12 months
The report, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, surveyed 8500 New Zealand high school students from March through November in 2012.
Overall, 4.5 per cent of respondents reported a suicide attempt in the last 12 months, and 7.9 per cent reported repeated non-suicidal self-injury in the same time frame.
Lead authors, Dr Song Chan and Associate Professor Simon Denny of the University of Auckland's School of Medicine, said the findings highlighted the importance of having strategies in place to reduce suicide — including increased access to psychological interventions and supports — that should, ideally, be delivered through schools.
The survey found exposure to suicidal behaviour among friends or family increased an individuals' risk of suicide and repeated self-harm, especially when that exposure was in the past year, which is in keeping with international research.
However, there was little evidence to back-up "contagion" theories relating to suicide or self-harm within school communities.
Dr Chan explained that while "students who were exposed to the suicide attempts of whanau or friends were four to five times more likely to report their own suicide attempt, suicides within a school did not influence the rates at which individual young people attempted suicide".
"Low mood, poverty and exposure to suicide attempts of friends and family members are associated with suicide attempts and repeated non-suicidal self-injury in New Zealand high school students. This research highlights the importance of supporting vulnerable adolescents with supports that are easily accessible to them."
A different report, Unicef's Innocenti Report, also found New Zealand's rate for teen (aged 15-19) suicides was the highest of the 41 OECD and EU countries included.
In an average week two young people would kill themselves, and about 20 young people would be hospitalised for self-harm, according to Youthline.
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