Research corner

`Suicidal feelings interfere with help-seeking in bullied adolescents' by Kitagawa, Y, Shimodera, S, Togo, F et al

Plos One, September 2014

Children's charity ChildLine has recorded a 116 per cent increase in counselling sessions dealing with suicidal feelings since 2010-11, according to a recent report (bit.lyChildLineSpotlight). And research from Japan suggests that globally the issue could be even more pronounced than these figures suggest.

In a study of nearly 9,500 Japanese adolescents aged between 15 and 18, students who were bullied or had mild suicidal feelings tended to be more likely to seek help than those with serious suicidal feelings. In addition, when those students who were bullied went on to develop suicidal feelings, the rate of help-seeking dropped.

The researchers used self-report questionnaires to gain an insight into the mental state of the teenagers involved in the project.

As the authors point out, the findings may have an impact on schools and other institutions involved in addressing suicidal feelings; after all, how can you deal with something of which you are unaware? The paper suggests that the answer lies in training. "Health-care professionals and school staff.may need to have appropriate skills to enquire about suicidal feelings or ideas in adolescents, especially in those being bullied," it says.

This is similar to ChildLine's own recommendations, which include awareness, patience and consistency, as well as the importance of seeking help for yourself when you are providing support for a child.

If you are concerned about a student, talk to the safeguarding officer in your school. Support is also available from dedicated helplines such as that run by children's charity NSPCC (0808 800 5000) or HopeLineUK, which is run by youth suicide prevention charity Papyrus (0800 068 4141). You can also contact general emotional support helplines such as the Samaritans (08457 90 90 90).

Sarah Cunnane

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