Teenage Suicide on the Rise

By Dr Vanessa Jones
Clinical Psychologist

An increasing number of teenagers are admitted to hospital with self-poisoning every year. They are trying to kill themselves. Suicide is the ninth most common cause of death in Mongolia. In 2010, The World Health Organisation found there were more deaths by suicide than deaths caused by lung cancer.
One of the most common reasons for teenagers wanting to commit suicide is problems at home. There may be violence, heavy alcohol use or neglect. Known risk factors for mental health difficulties in children and teenagers include illness or disability in the family, the separation of parents, difficult family relationships, parents with drug or alcohol problems, money or housing problems, bereavements, friendship problems or bullying and problems with learning or difficulties at school.
One fifth of all teenagers admitted to hospital with gastro-intestinal problems are victims of self-poisoning. Attempted suicide in teenagers in Mongolia is growing. These are the people we know about. How many teenagers are thinking about killing themselves that we never find out about?

How can we help these vulnerable teenagers?

Clinical psychologists are trained to help young people through relieving distress and easing suffering. They work to help people understand their situation, thoughts and feelings to understand how they can help themselves. This simple, yet powerful experience can make the difference between life and death. It empowers young people to help themselves and equips them to deal with future challenges.

Clinical Psychology in the United Kingdom

Self-harm is not just a problem for the youth of Mongolia. It affects young people all over world. One in twelve young people in the United Kingdom (UK) deliberately harm themselves. Twenty five thousand young people are taken to hospital every year with self-harm injuries.
In the UK, there are services dedicated to working with young people with mental health difficulties. They use a team approach, using the specialist skills of mental health nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers to offer effective care. They work with teenagers, families and schools to identify problem areas and offer support to all parties.
Over half of all adults with mental health problems also had mental health difficulties in childhood. Early identification and support can ease distress, save lives and save money.
Research studies across the world have shown effective psychological care can cost less than medical treatments and may even reduce normal healthcare costs. If teenagers are given effective psychological treatment, they are less likely to need expensive hospital resources after attempting suicide. This allows over-stretched medical services to more effectively treat their patients.

Clinical Psychology in Mongolia

Twelve years ago, the Parliament of Mongolia passed a Mental Health law saying that everyone should be able to get mental healthcare if they need it. Yet mental healthcare is still hard to access. Where mental health services do exist, links with other sectors such as schools are weak or underdeveloped.
In 2006, the World Health Organisation found that only 2% of healthcare expenditure was spent on mental health services. As yet, there are no child and adolescent mental health teams in Mongolia.
If young people are feeling so distressed that they want to kill themselves – where do they go? The sad answer is that they go to hospital – with self-poisoning or cutting injuries. Doctors and nurses do their best to talk with patients, to find out what the problems are and to help in any way they can. Yet it is hard for them to make a difference without the proper training, emotional support or services to refer on to.
Young people in distress can see private psychological therapists if their families have the money and know where to go. Yet mental health is seen as a private issue, so even if families can afford to take their children to a private therapist, they may not do so because they are embarrassed.
If teenagers are having problems with their family, they may not want their parents to know how they are feeling. Then there is no-one to help them get good care.

What needs to happen next?

Psychology services need to be available as part of standard healthcare. There needs to be mental health professionals who can work with young people when they are feeling distressed and vulnerable. There needs to be trained mental health professionals in hospitals who can support patients and families through these difficult times.
There also needs to be support for the doctors and nurses who work with these patients every day, giving their hearts and energy to relieving psychological distress and mending broken bodies. They need training and emotional support if they are to continue to do the jobs we all rely on them to do. Links between mental health practitioners and family doctors need to be strengthened and special attention needs to be given to child and adolescent services.

What we are doing?

The Mongolia Psychotherapy Association and the National Psychology Center are committed to working with government to improve mental health services. Their aims are to improve access to psychological therapy for all those who need it, including families and young people.
The promotion of psychological therapy as part of the health insurance scheme is part of this aim. They are also working to develop the research base that will inform the growth of these mental health services, including developing our understanding of the mental health problems that face modern Mongolian society.
Public awareness is one of the most important parts of all of these campaigns. The public needs to know how to recognise mental health difficulties in friends and family. People need to know where they can get support, and they need to know that it is okay to ask for help. We all need to know how to look after ourselves and our loved ones.

What you should do if you are worried about a young person

If there is a young person you are worried about then you should visit your family doctor. Most physician-based primary care services have assessment and treatment protocols for key mental health conditions. If would like to get in touch with a psychologist, you should visit your general doctor. They should be able to help you to find a psychologist or therapist.


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Posted by on Nov 23 2012. Filed under Community. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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