Poor GCSEs increase self-harm risk

Poor GCSEs increase self-harm risk, warns Prince’s Trust

http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/25642662

 

People with fewer than five A to C GCSEs are more likely to self-harm than students with good results, a charity is warning.

The Prince’s Trust surveyed 2,161, 16 to 25-year-olds and one in five said they did things like cut or burn themselves.

For people with poor GCSE results, that jumped to nearly one in three.

Stacy Hawkins, 22, said her mental health problems started when she moved to a new school in Cornwall aged 15.

“I was bullied,” she said. “I didn’t fit in.

“I’d be pushed, shoved, tripped up in the corridor and I couldn’t really concentrate because I was thinking more about what was going to happen once I’d left class knowing I’d probably be beaten up again.”

In the end Stacy didn’t get any GCSEs at grade A to C.

That meant she was unable to go to college, which is one of the reasons she says she ended up leaving home at 17.

It was shortly after that when she started self-harming.

“I’d cut myself,” she revealed. “I’d burn myself, I’d try and break my bones. I’d take large overdoses.

“I don’t really know why I did it. It just made me feel better. It helped me release some of that anger and that if the world was hurting me why shouldn’t I hurt myself?

“It seemed as though life really wasn’t worth living.”

Paul Brown works for The Prince’s Trust and says people like Stacy need more help from the government, charities and the private sector.

“We believe more needs to be done in school, with schools working together with organisations like The Prince’s Trust, to provide specialist support to those young people who need help to overcome the issues in their lives,” he said.

“We need to redouble our efforts and make sure we focus on the most vulnerable young people.

“That includes those who’ve left school with fewer than five good GCSEs because we know they’re more likely to suffer a whole range of mental health issues.”

One person the charity has already helped is Stacy.

“I’m in a lot better place now, I rarely self-harm,” she said.

“I feel more confident about talking to people about how I feel.

“I’ve gone back to college to try and better my English GCSE and I’m generally feeling a lot better in myself.”

 

 

Facts about suicide in the UK

  • Suicide is the biggest single killer of under-35s in the UK
  • Nearly four people aged between 15 and 34 kill themselves every day
  • Three times as many men as women kill themselves in the UK

Source: Office of National Statistics

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Suicide is a gender issue 25,841 more males committed suicide than women in a decade

Suicide is a gender issue 25,841 more males committed suicide than women in a decade

Each time suicide reaches the headlines our attention is directed at particular groups – middle-aged men, people in deprived areas or in certain professions. This is splitting hairs.

The latest statistics underline the message that Calm (the campaign against living miserably) has maintained for years; gender runs through UK suicide statistics like letters in a stick of rock. The highest suicide rate is among men aged 30-44, in men aged 45 to 59 suicide has increased significantly between 2007 and 2011, and in 2011 more men under 35 died from suicide in the UK than road accidents, murder and HIV/Aids combined. Even in the 60+ age group, men were three times more likely to take their lives than women.

Recent University of Liverpool research indicated that the economic downturn was likely to add 1,000 suicides over and above what we could expect; with around 800 more men and 200 women killing themselves as a direct result of the recession. The research proposed that the government needed to look at interventions and policies that will sustain and support jobs. Other research by the Samaritans has focused on older men, concluding that these men, at the lower end of the socio-economic scale, were emotionally illiterate, which explained their high suicide rate.

But surely the big question is why is suicide three to four times more likely in men of any age group?

A complacent explanation for the difference is that men attempt more violent forms of suicide and are therefore more likely to be successful. But take Scottish deaths from 1974-2008. In 1974 the number of Scottish male deaths from suicide stood at 278, women at 264 – numbers then diverged dramatically. Male suicides rose year-on-year to a high of 679 in 1993, and the figures remained high. Meanwhile female suicides only exceeded 300 in two years during the whole period.

Poverty and mental health issues affect both genders. The variable factor is culture and society; how we expect men to act, and how they feel they can behave. Suicide prevention work must, therefore, address this.

Men, regardless of age group, often don’t recognise when they are depressed. Depression in men is likely to be signalled by anger, so won’t be recognised either by men themselves or by women as depression. Ironically, they may end up in jail rather than a GP’s surgery. For a man to ask for help is seen as failure, because by convention men are supposed to be in control at all times.

It seems to be accepted that men just won’t ask for help or therapy. Calm’s phonelines tell a different story. We’ve found that if you promote a service aimed at men, in a manner that fits with their lifestyle and expectations, they will ask for help. We struggle to keep up with demand.

We believe that if we are to combat suicide we have to ensure that all men are aware of the symptoms of depression and feel able to access help without being seen as less of a man for doing so. If boys can’t talk about stuff but girls can then we should tackle this. If men can’t get to their surgery because it’s closed during the working week, then address this. Risk assessments need to reflect gender diversity and women need to be aware of the symptoms of depression in men. We need to challenge the idea that a “strong and silent” man is desirable and challenge the notion that men talking, showing emotion and being “sensitive” is weak.

The number of male suicides over the age of 15 in England and Wales from 2001 to 2011 totalled 38,621. The number of women in the same period totalled 12,780. A difference of 25,841. All of these numbers are too high, but for me the stark contrast between men and women is 25,841 reasons to talk about gender.

 

The Guardian newspaper January 23 2013