Sunday 10th September marks the 15th World Suicide Prevention Day. We talk about the potential for child maltreatment to push people towards taking their own lives and how the 70/30 campaign plans to reduce the number of people affected by reducing child maltreatment by at least 70% by the year 2030.

The number of suicides per year has reached around 800,000 worldwide, with an average of 13.1 per 100,000 people aged 10-29 being affected. People who experience four or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) – such as child abuse, neglect or witnessing domestic violence – are a full 14 times more likely to attempt suicide. [1]

Ben Zeller was a talented programmer who took his own life at age 27. Following much torment and abuse as a child, in his last letter he wrote, ‘The darkness is with me nearly every time I wake up. I feel like a grime is covering me. I feel like I’m trapped in a contaminated body that no amount of washing will clean. Whenever I think about what happened I feel manic and itchy and can’t concentrate on anything else.’ [2]

There has been a vast amount of research dedicated to establishing a link between child maltreatment and suicidal ideation, showing some strong patterns. Child maltreatment, the umbrella term used for sexual, physical, emotional abuse and neglect, all show a link towards the likelihood of suicide attempts.

It is well documented that those who are victims to sexual abuse as a child are especially likely to have attempted suicide or self-harmed before early adulthood. Often, these attempts are brought on by other coping mechanisms such as substance abuse and other risk-taking behaviours.

However, other forms of maltreatment have been linked to suicidal ideation in young people through, for example, the increased incidences of having an anxiety disorder. Suicide in young people has been described as ‘a consequence of their experiences, which tends to de-stigmatise it and lead to it being viewed as a reasonable option’.

It can be difficult for younger people to identify anxiety and depression as symptoms and realise that outside help is available to them. Learning to identify mental illness and understanding alternatives is something that can aid those with suicidal ideations long into adulthood. Prompting to seek social support, help and guidance is a strong protective factor.

The sentiment of this year’s campaign is ‘Take a minute – save a life’. One small action from you today could make real a difference to someone’s wellbeing. Something as simple as taking an extra five minutes to play your child’s favourite game, giving them a hug or giving a neighbour a bit of moral support if they look stressed – these little things add up and give us resilience.

On the 70/30 campaign website, you can make a pledge to give just this kind of moral support to someone in your community. Take a moment to go to https://www.70-30.org.uk/ways-to-help/make-a-pledge/ and then let us know what you did with the hastag #pledgefor7030 and tag @7030Campaign. You never know what difference you could end up making.

Worried about someone? Follow world suicide prevention: https://iasp.info/wspd2017/

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