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Young people aged between 13 and 30 make up half of self harm and suicide hospital admissions in Kent

By Luke May

Teenagers and young adults are harming themselves at a higher rate than any other age groups, new figures suggest.

Data collected from the last five years shows 13 to 30-year-olds make up half of all self inflicted and attempted suicide admissions at Kent’s hospitals.

Jenny Woledge lost her 20-year-old son to suicide three years ago and now works to save other young lives.

Jenny Woledge lost her son William and has trained to help others intervene when suicide may be a risk
Jenny Woledge lost her son William and has trained to help others intervene when suicide may be a risk

She said: “When I look back all the signs were there, William lost interest in his appearance, he became very low and he told me he no longer wanted to live.

“As a parent you can think 'how can you possibly want to kill yourself'?

“He had already set a date. That released some of the pressure in his head, because he was thinking he wouldn’t be here much longer.

“So many people tell me when they lost someone they thought 'oh he’s on the mend', but it’s about being able to look past that and ask the right questions.

“There’s no evidence proving asking someone if they’re going to kill themselves will put the idea in their head, it is uncomfortable but asking that question can be such a relief.”

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust admitted 5,255 patients for self harm and attempted suicide between February 2013 and February 2018, more than any other Kent hospital trust.

Young people are more likely than any another age group to be admitted to Kent's hospitals with self harm injuries
Young people are more likely than any another age group to be admitted to Kent's hospitals with self harm injuries

Of those, 50% were aged between 13 and 30.

Overall, 11% of patients admitted to Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells hospitals were 13 to 17 year-old girls.

Ms Woledge, who is from Canterbury, added: “For youngsters, there’s so much stress in society, they’re leading up to exams, you’ve got daily peer pressure and bullying as well as family breakdowns.

"There is this pressure to look good everyday and it’s a daily anxiety problem.

“The figures are quite scary, but more is being done now.

“A lot of schools now are noticing children need to be supported from a younger age, they can go from this small primary school environment to a secondary school arena, it can be very stressful.”

William Woledge took his own life
William Woledge took his own life

As well as the likes of Samaritans and Childline, a suicide and self harm helpline exists exclusively for children, teenagers and young adults.

Helen Burns is a suicide prevention adviser at Papyrus, which takes calls from anyone aged up to 35.

She said: “If someone is self harming it is not necessarily the case they’re suicidal.

“In some cases it can be about expressing emotional pain in a physical sense, for others self harming can give them a reason to look after themselves.

“When you’ve got emotional pain you may not know how to deal with it so you harm yourself physically instead because you can clean it up and take care of it.

“For others it’s just to stop from feeling numb.

“It can act as a relief and in that sense can become addictive, but then what happens when that stops working?”

The charity takes calls from at risk young people, but also takes calls from people concerned for a friend or a relative.

Ms Burns said: “We can take calls from people saying they’re worried for friend, our advice is normally to acknowledge how brave that person is being by admitting they’re struggling and see what support they can give.”

The Hopeline is available to call on 0800 0684141.

  • If you are in need of help, call Samaritans on 116 123. Maidstone and Mid Kent also runs counselling services and can be reached on 01622 692383.

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