Study finds one-in-nine young adults has attempted suicide in Scotland

One in nine young adults in Scotland has attempted suicide, according to new research.

The study of 18-34-year-olds also found that one in six (16.2%) report having self harmed at some stage in their lives.

Researchers found that 6.5% of the 3,508 young Scots questioned reported a history of both behaviours.

Experts are calling for those involved in the care of young people to be “vigilant” given the prevalence of suicide attempts and non-suicidal self-harm (NSSH).

The report said: “Psychiatrists, psychologists and others involved in the care of young people should be vigilant.

“Given the prevalence of suicide attempts and NSSH in this age group, they should routinely enquire about history of self-injurious behaviour, especially as past behaviour is such a strong predictor of suicide.”

The study led by the University of Glasgow found that the first episode of self-harm tended to precede the first suicide attempt by about two years.

Women were found to be significantly more likely to report self-harm and suicide attempts than men.

Researchers found that one in nine (11.3%) of young people report having attempted suicide.

Earlier age at the time of the first episode was associated with more frequent self-harm and suicide attempts.

Researchers also found that almost one quarter (22.8%) of young people reported having thought about suicide at some stage in their life and 10.4% last thought about suicide in the past 12 months.

Lead author Prof Rory O’Connor, chair in Health Psychology and director of the Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory at the University’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing, said: “Suicide attempts and non-suicidal self-harm are major public health concerns that affect large numbers of young people.

“Until now, there have been few studies that estimated how common these thoughts and behaviours were in young adults in the country.

“These results are stark, and serve to highlight the scale of suicide attempts and self-harm in our country’s young people.

“The findings are timely given that the Scottish Government will soon publish a new suicide prevention action plan. We hope our findings also emphasise the importance to clinicians, and others involved in the care of young people, to be vigilant given that suicide attempts and self-harm are relatively common.”

The study is a collaboration between the Universities of Glasgow, Stirling, Leeds and Nottingham and is published in the journal BJPsych Open.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We welcome research that helps to shed light on the causes of suicide and how better to prevent it. Scotland has seen a significant fall of 17% in the overall suicide rate over the past decade, and we have seen particular progress with the age group covered in this research.

“Among 15-to-34-year-olds, there has a been a decrease of 34% over the past decade. We are currently engaging with stakeholders on a draft suicide prevention action plan in order to continue this strong downward trend, and we have discussed our plan with Professor O’Connor.

“These findings reinforce the importance of the vision in our Mental Health Strategy that people can get the right help at the right time, can expect recovery, and fully enjoy their rights, free from discrimination and stigma. We want a Scotland where people feel able to talk freely about how they feel and get the help they need.”

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