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Distressing data: Number of suicide attempts by children and young people increases

Distressing data: Number of suicide attempts by children and young people increases

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Konrad SiwikKonrad Siwik,22.01.2024 14:00

According to data released by the GrowSPACE Foundation, there has been a worrying increase in suicide attempts by children and young people in Poland in 2023. For the second consecutive year, a record of more than 2,000 suicide attempts has been set.

The data obtained by activists Dominik Kuc, Paulina Filipowicz, and Mateusz Trzaska from the Warsaw Metropolitan Police and Provincial Police Headquarters indicate that there has been a worrying increase in suicide attempts by children and young people in Poland in 2023. For the second consecutive year, a record of more than 2,139 suicide attempts has been set, with 146 of them ending tragically. Eight voivodeships saw an increase in suicide attempts compared to 2022.

Dominik Kuc, an activist at GrowSPACE Foundation, emphasised the need to enhance the accessibility of child and adolescent psychiatric care.

"These statistics highlight the significant amount of work that we still need to do in the area of child and adolescent mental health. Unfortunately, the same figures from last year have been repeated, emphasising the urgent need for action. It's concerning to note that the average waiting time for a consultation with a National Health Service psychiatrist or child psychiatrist is currently 238 days," says Dominik Kuc.

The number of suicide attempts by children and adolescents in 2023
The number of suicide attempts by children and adolescents in 2023 (GrowSPACE Foundation)

"We must take urgent action to improve access to mental health care. The allocation of 3 billion zlotys towards paediatric psychiatry and oncology in the new budget is a significant step. Still, more needs to be done to address what is known as 'referential zero point'. This encompasses hospital wards, outpatient care, psychological support, community care, prevention, and psycho-education. Experts agree that the majority of cases can be prevented through effective implementation of ‘zero suicide model’," concludes the activist.

Reasons for the increase in suicide attempts

Paulina Filipowicz, psychologist and GrowSPACE activist highlighted that the increase in youth suicide attempts is influenced by various factors, such as difficult family situations, social isolation, somatic and mental illness, stressful life events and a general feeling of insecurity.

"Let us remember that young people today are a generation burdened by experiences of isolation. Psychologists also point to insecurity as an important factor in suicidal crises: war in neighbouring countries, growing social unrest, and global crises. Specialists are increasingly discussing the 'mean world syndrome', which would particularly affect the younger generation," says Paulina Filipowicz.

Paulina Filipowicz speaking at the media briefing
Paulina Filipowicz speaking at the media briefing (GrowSPACE Foundation)

The Polish parliament has recently passed a law that allocates PLN 3 billion for child psychiatry and oncology. This move has been praised as a step in the right direction. However, experts have advised that there should be careful consideration of how these funds will be spent, and there should be inter-ministerial cooperation, especially with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy.

The GrowSPACE Foundation reccomends

The GrowSPACE Foundation has provided some recommendations to the ministry in light of the concerning statistics. These include:

  • Enhancing the development of community-based and outpatient support
  • Providing support for prevention and psychoeducation
  • Increasing funding for psychiatric wards that cater to children and adolescents
  • Conducting training programs for specialists and professionals
  • Developing non-medical institutions and professions.

Mateusz Trzaska, a student involved in the GrowSPACE Foundation's actions, emphasises the need for the permanent presence of psychologists in schools and the introduction of psychoeducation to support students in dealing with emotions and crises.

"Amid a child and adolescent suicide crisis, we need to pay attention to the needs of the youngest. We will hear from them that they want to be reassured that there will be a psychologist at their school ready to help them in a crisis situation. Psycho-education must also become a permanent feature at school. We, the students, no matter what school we are in, want to know how to deal with our emotions and prevent crises before they occur," Mateusz Trzaska comments.

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