Three Young Children in the Greater Manchester Area Die by Suicide in Three Weeks
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” (Nelson Mandela)
I have just returned to the UK after completing my Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship, to learn that during the last three weeks, three young children aged 12, 15 and 16 have died by suicide in the Greater Manchester area http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/aleysha-rothwell-found-hanged-teenage-6916961#.Uz-6KulpYk0.email The poor families. My heart goes out to them. I switch on the news and reporters are outside their homes. Have these families not endured enough without photographers and camera crews pitching outside their homes? Do we really need to see their street, home, garden? What purpose does this serve? I have no doubt local newspapers have even named the street where they live. The media should have more respect and leave these poor families to grieve. Any contact with these families should be offers of condolences, support and compassion not morbid curiosity.
How many children will be affected by these deaths in Greater Manchester?
Currently, we do not know how many children are affected when a young child dies by suicide. However, I have no doubt when a young boy of 12 dies by suicide, the whole school will be affected. His death might also have an impact on pupils who attend the primary school that he attended the previous year. It could be argued that the two other children aged 14 and 15 might have a wider circle of friends and acquaintances than a 12 year old. Again, their deaths will undoubtedly affect the whole school.
I have just checked the following government website to identify the average number of pupils that attend a secondary school https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/number-of-secondary-schools-and-their-size-in-student-numbers and identified the following statistics:
On January 2012 there were 3,268 state-funded mainstream secondary schools in England, of which:
- 317 had between 1 and 500 pupils;
- 1,405 had between 501 and 1,000 pupils;
- 1,226 had between 1,001 and 1,500 pupils; and
- 320 had 1,501 or more pupils
If we were to assume that the average secondary school has around 1,000 pupils, it is possible to suggest that during the last three weeks, 3,000 pupils in the Greater Manchester area are potentially bereaved or affected by suicide, without any specialist postvention services being available.
To my knowledge very few schools in the UK have a suicide prevention/postvention strategy. I would imagine there has been mass panic in the three secondary schools that have had to cope with the loss of a pupil Children distressed, parents anxious and teachers uncertain how to respond to either pupils or parents. I have no doubt everyone involved in such situations feel helpless and hopeless. This cannot be allowed to continue. We need to support schools/colleges/universities that have the difficult task of picking up the pieces when a pupil dies by suicide.
The UK government should focus its attention to New Zealand’s government initiative, which has recently made it mandatory for all schools/colleges/universities to have a suicide prevention/postvention strategy. Ironically, I talked about this issue and the excellent work that is being conducted in New Zealand in a previous post, prior to the three young children dying by suicide in Greater Manchester http://www.suicide-bereavement.co.uk/the-development-of-a-postvention-service-provided-to-schools-in-auckland-new-zealand/. Children do not have a voice but we as adults/society do. We can no longer ignore the number of young children dying by suicide. The first step should be to focus on supporting schools/colleges/universities when such deaths occur. I am hoping someone of influence reads this post and attempts to address this neglected issue.
What services are available for children bereaved by suicide?
Evidence suggests that the majority of health professionals have not received training on how to care for and respond to those bereaved by suicide and are often anxious and uncertain how to respond when they come into contact with the bereaved. To my knowledge, Trusts in the Greater Manchester area does not have any specialist services that specifically support children bereaved by suicide. However, I am aware of an excellent charity ‘Winston’s Wish’ that supports children and their families bereaved by suicide http://www.winstonswish.org.uk/when-someone-has-died-through-suicide/ It is important to note that this charity is setting up a service in Greater Manchester later this month (April, 2014). Sadly, I imagine they will be overwhelmed by referrals as soon as they open their office.
For additional suicide bereavement resources click on the following link: