ChildLine has called on the Department of Health to do more to help prevent suicide attempts by children and young people after it received more than 1,000 calls last year from children contemplating taking their own lives.
The figure represents an increase of 14% on 2003/4 call levels. A further 1,700 children mentioned suicide in relation to other problems when calling the charity.
Four out of 10 of all suicide-related calls were from children aged 16 to 18, with five times as many calls from girls as boys. A number of calls had been made directly after a suicide attempt.
ChildLine president Esther Rantzen said: “All young death is agonizing, but suicide is among the cruellest of all – because it’s preventable.
“One child rang ChildLine from her science lesson: she had already taken an overdose. Another teenage couple had taken a suicide pact and rang having cut their wrists.”
ChildLine is also calling for a senior staff member in every school to be made responsible for safeguarding children’s mental health, and for this position to be backed up with on-site counselling services.
The charity warns that the true number of children with suicidal feelings seeking help is likely to be higher than the figures suggest: of the 4,500 calls that ChildLine receives each day, nearly half cannot be answered. The charity, which was recently taken over by the child protection charity the NSPCC, said that its service needed to expand.