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Coronavirus lockdown a factor in three suicides of teenagers in Kent

Three teenagers in Kent are said to have taken their own lives while suffering the psychological effects of lockdown, a clinical commissioning group has said.

The mental strain of coronavirus restrictions was thought to be a contributory factor in the suicides of the three youngsters.

Lockdown is said to be exacerbating existing mental health issues in young people. Stock image
Lockdown is said to be exacerbating existing mental health issues in young people. Stock image

A report to the Kent and Medway CCG revealed there had been seven attempts by children aged between 13 and 17 to take their own lives between March and May this year. Sadly, three of them resulted in deaths.

The youngsters were from different areas of the county and not all of them had previously accessed mental health services.

However, the CCG says lockdown measures had "seemingly exacerbated" existing issues.

Its findings - first reported on by the Health Service Journal - add that a "range of different factors" contributed to the suicide attempts and deaths.

Referring to the “cluster” of deaths, it says: “These appear to include conditions that impact on impulse control, special needs, domestic violence, mental illness, each seemingly exacerbated by lockdown.”

Rachel Jones, director of strategy and population health for Kent and Medway CCG, said: “The death of any young person is a tragedy, particularly when they have ended their own life, and our deepest sympathies are with the families and friends of the three young people that have died.

River Thompson survived a suicide attempt aged 19
River Thompson survived a suicide attempt aged 19

"Local services are working closely to understand what led to these tragic events, and how to make sure the young people and their families get the support they need.

“Disruption to regular routines and contact with friends and school can create additional pressure on the mental wellbeing of young people, particularly those who have existing mental health issues and/or come from difficult home backgrounds.

"We have taken action throughout the pandemic to support access to mental health services for young people. and have communicated to schools about the resources that are available to cascade through their remote contact with pupils, as well as continuing to promote local services directly to young people.”

According to the Independent, NHS England’s national clinical director for mental health recently told a Royal Society of Medicine webinar that children were being hit hard by the lockdown, with calls to Childline increasing 50% in recent months.

Kent YouTuber River Thompson, who attempted suicide aged 19, is among those to have urged people to seek help if they are struggling during lockdown.

“Disruption to regular routines and contact with friends and school can create additional pressure on the mental wellbeing of young people, particularly those who have existing mental health issues and/or come from difficult home backgrounds"

Children’s and adolescents’ mental health services in Kent and Medway are provided by North East London Foundation Trust.

Gill Burns, director of children’s services for Essex and Kent, said: “I’d like to extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these young people. During the pandemic, we have remained focused on continuing to provide children and young people with mental healthcare and support across Kent and Medway.

“Our children and young people’s mental health services have remained open and we have continued to triage, treat and care for our patients as before. We have made changes to the way we provide some of this care in line with the restrictions of Covid-19, including using video consultations and online intervention and therapy tools where appropriate.

“Our single point of access service has continued to take referrals from patients and families directly, as well as from GPs and others, and our crisis team have provided support to anyone who needed urgent help.

“We will continue to work with our health and care partners across Kent and Medway to ensure children and young people have access to the mental health support they need.”

Research by YoungMinds near the start of the pandemic showed that 83% of children with existing mental health problems felt the Covid-19 crisis and social distancing measures made their mental health worse.

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