London: Suicides among children and young adults peak at the beginning of exam season, says a study. Exams are sometimes the final straw that lead to someone under 25 taking their own life, according to a major inquiry.
While experts pointed out that the causes of suicide are always complex, they said academic problems could play a significant role.
In England and Wales on average, 96 people aged under 25 take their own lives every year in April and May, while the next highest number – 88 – do so in September, when new students start at university.
Analysis of evidence heard at inquests shows that 63 (43%) of the 145 suicides among those aged under 20 in 2014-15 were experiencing academic pressures of different sorts before their death. Almost one in three – 46 (32%) – had exams at the time, or coming up soon, or were waiting for exam results.
A higher proportion of those aged 20-24 were facing “academic pressures overall” before their death (47%). However, that figure represents seven of the only 15 suicides in that age group among young people who were in education at the time.
Stephen Habgood, the chairman of Papyrus, a charity that tries to prevent under-35s taking their own lives, said youth suicide was a devastating social phenomena.
A decade-long fall in the number of youth suicides has reversed in recent years to the extent that more young people die that way than from any other cause, warned the authors of a University of Manchester report into suicide by children and young people. In all 922 under-25s took their own lives in England and Wales during 2014 and 2015. Suicide now accounts for 14% of all deaths in 10 to 19-year-olds and 21% of 20 to 34-year-olds.
However, the UK still has a relatively low rate of suicide by children and young people compared with other countries. Inside the UK, Scotland and Northern Ireland have more such deaths per capita than England or Wales.
Suicide rates fell from between five and six per 100,000 in the early 2000s to a low of 3.1 per 100,000 in 2010. But they rose again to 5.5 per 100,000 in 2015, Office of National Statistics data shows.
Around 125 youth suicides a year occur soon after the person involved has experienced a bereavement. One in four (25%) of under-20s and 28% of 20 to 24-year-olds had lost a relative, partner, friend or acquaintance around a year or more beforehand.
In 11% of suicides among under-20s, the person who those involved had lost had also taken their own life.