Teenage suicide figures on the rise in Sunderland

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THE number of teenage Wearside men taking their own lives is on the increase, according to mental health charities.

The latest figures show that 15 men aged under 18 were victims of suicide in 2011, in comparison to only two women.

Nationally, there were 4,552 male suicides in 2011, and 1,493 female – a total increase of 437 people from 2010.

Shirley Smith founded Chester-le-Street based mental health charity If U Care Share after her son Daniel O’Hare took his own life in 2005, aged 19.

“The North East has one of the highest suicide rates in the country,” she said.

“And it is the biggest killer in young males aged 15 to 35. Unfortunately most people don’t know that.

“Mental health isn’t a sexy word and young people don’t want to talk about.

“They don’t want to actively deal with it, but that’s why we run workshops and try to get them to open up so they can learn to deal with their emotions.

“Nobody really knows why these figures are on the increase, if we did there wouldn’t be a problem.

“But our charity was started because my younger children felt that if Daniel had been able to talk about his feelings, his suicide could have been prevented, so that is what we try to achieve.”

Daniel’s younger brothers Matthew Smith, 18, who now runs the charity’s suicide prevention workshops, Ben Smith, 13, and cousin Sarah O’Hare, 20, raised £48,000 to help prevent suicides and won the Diana award in 2011 for their work.

Now a national charity, they work with premier league football clubs, the National Suicide Prevention Strategy Advisory Group, and the All Party Parliamentary Suicide Group.

Figures from Sunderland Royal hospital reveal that last year, 49 under-18s were admitted after attempting suicide, an increase from 44 in 2011, and more of these were women than men.

Jacqui Reeves, services manager at Washington Mind, said the figures are a common trend.

“Statistics will show that women are often more likely to ask for help and men less so.

“Society places an emphasis on men to be strong, and research has identified that there are men who have been brought up not to talk about their feelings.

“Evidence suggests that men choose methods that are more likely to result in death rather than the cry for help.

“Women often find themselves in a caring role, putting their own needs last.

“This can undermine their sense of worth, opinions and strengths, so to survive, she may cut herself off from her real needs.

“For example, if the focus for this is the size and shape of her body, she may drastically restrict what she eats.

“People may hurt themselves to help them get through a bad time. It’s a way to cope.

“So while we work with and support people who use self harming behaviours, we also offer training to try and bust some of the myths around this misunderstood behaviour.”

For more information visit www.ifucareshare.com or www.wellbeinginfo.org.