Expert warns of lack of comprehensive child suicide prevention strategy

ZAGREB, 15 May 2022 – Commenting for Hina on data on suicide attempts and suicides among children and young people, psychologist Andreja Bogdan called for more attention to be paid to the problem, warning that Croatia has no comprehensive national program for the prevention of suicide among children and young people.

“Since 2013, there has been no comprehensive, nationally evaluated program for child and youth suicide prevention, and the issue is primarily addressed by individual nongovernmental organizations,” Bogdan said. when asked to comment on reports that in 2021 seven children committed suicide and 63 attempted suicide.

The Home Office confirmed that seven people under the age of 18 committed suicide last year, which is less than in 2020, when there were 10 cases of suicide in this age group, but more than in 2019, when six people under the age of 18 committed suicide. suicide.

Child and youth suicides in 2021 accounted for 1.22% of the total number of suicides committed that year, in 2020 they accounted for 1.77% of all suicides that year, and in 2019, 1, 06% of all suicides.

A ministry statistical report for 2018 shows that in that year three children under the age of 14 committed suicide while 15 attempted suicide and seven in the age group 15-18 committed suicide while 54 tried to do it.

Bogdan notes that official suicide statistics may differ from actual figures because in some cases, such as attempted suicide with drugs, poisoning, or using a car, it is difficult to determine intent so such suicide or attempted suicide is recorded as a car accident, poisoning, accidental fall, etc.

She notes that research shows that suicide is one of the leading causes of injury death in Croatia.

The psychologist notes that suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts are more common at a young age than later in life.

“The rate of suicide attempts or suicides among young people is highest in the 14-19 age group, with men being at greater risk in both children and adults,” she says, noting that Growing up in today’s society is not easy and comes with many challenges and important questions for children’s personal identity.

On top of that, children are likely to act impulsively and seek excitement and are less aware of the consequences of their behavior, Bogdan says.

Among the most important risk factors are unemployment and low income of parents, lack of close relationships with their children, low level of parental supervision and divorce, mental illness in parents and early death of parents .

Children who are victims of peer violence, cyberbullying, children with depression and anxiety disorders, children who use drugs, and children with behavioral problems are at higher risk of developing suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Bogdan, former president of the Croatian Chamber of Psychologists, has objections to the way suicide prevention policy has been implemented in recent years.

“There are individual events dedicated to the issue of suicide and expert trainings, but there is no clear, structured and continuous implementation of evaluated and scientifically based programs,” she says.

Since 2013, there has not been a comprehensive and evaluated program for child and youth suicide prevention at the national level, and the problem of prevention is most often addressed by non-governmental organizations, she says. , noting that children and young people lack enough information about who to contact for help in case of distress.

The experience of the work on telephone hotlines for the psychological support of children and adolescents, initiated by the Central Office for Demography and Youth of the State, shows that children and young people are not likely to speak their problems or seek psychological help over the phone, which further underscores the need for educational institutions to have mental health experts, says Bogdan.

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