One Sunday evening in October 2009, Niamh Lafferty and Georgia Rowe jumped hand in hand into the River Clyde from the Erskine Bridge. The sheriff's inquiry into the double suicide severely criticised the care home they were living in for failing to protect them.
While the number of looked-after children and young people who take their own lives is relatively low, there have been deaths in Scotland every year for more than a decade. Many more either contemplate suicide or harm themselves.
A programme of 14 seminars is to be run this year to raise awareness among senior managers in social work, health and education of the issues of self-harm and suicide. It will be delivered by the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS) and Choose Life at the request of the Scottish government. The programme also aims to improve communication between agencies and provide guidance and protocols that can be embedded into everyday practice.
The format for all events will be similar but all will be tailored to the specific issues for that area. Each will have an experienced chairperson who is known locally or nationally. The seminars will challenge managers to make sure the policy and guidance in their agency is up to date and consider how staff and carers will know of it.
According to CELCIS, children and young people have an increased vulnerability to suicide attempts when incidents are in the news. Other factors that can increase risk, identified in Suicide prevention for looked after children and young people, a practice guide published by the care inspectorate, include:
- Loneliness and a lack of trusted friends.
- Substance misuse and alcohol problems within the family.
- Life crises such as bereavement or issues relating to sexual orientation.
- Mental health disorder.
To access the guide, go to: bit.lyVGlfmA.