In recent months, the mental health of children and young people has received more attention in the public debate in the country.
An overview of suicide attempts among children aged 0-14, which the Danish Health Data Agency has prepared for the newspaper Jyllands-Posten, showed precisely why the issue requires more attention.
Suicide attempts in the said age group became more frequent last year. In 2020, boys in the age group attempted suicide 111 times. The number rose to 187 in 2021.
When it comes to girls, the situation is even direr. In 2020, they attempted suicide 724 times. Last year, the number rose to 1267.
As Jyllands-Posten points out, that means that there is a child in Denmark who tries to commit suicide four times a day.
Vulnerable young people and children who have difficulties in social situations may be at risk of developing suicidal thoughts, according to Britt Morthorst, senior researcher in child and youth psychiatry in the Capital Region.
“What characterises suicidal people, especially children and young people, is this experience of carrying a psychological pain that they cannot find a way to communicate in any other way than a feeling that they have to get away from this life,” she told broadcaster TV 2.
The Børns Vilkår organisation, which, among other things, operates the Børntelefonen and the online counselling service for young people – Hört – also sees the unfortunate development.
According to the organisation’s leader Rasmus Kjeldahl, the proportion of those calling in with suicidal thoughts increases year after year.
Kjeldahl says that some themes appear again and again. Loneliness is one of the themes that they see growing among young children.
“When children reach the age of ten, a sense of community with other children becomes incredibly important, and the parents matter a little less. They cannot really compensate for it if they feel alone, are bullied, or are exposed to something on social media,” Kjeldahl told the channel.
Approximately one in three people who contacted Livslinien in 2020 expressed that they have problems with loneliness – a figure that is persistent across age groups.
More children feel unwell
Headspace, which offers free talks and advice to young people between the ages of 12 and 25, also gets in touch with more people aged 12-14 who feel “strong dissatisfaction” now compared to, for example, 2015.
“Generally, it concerns dissatisfaction at school, feeling like an outsider, and conflicts with friends and family,” Christian Lund of Headspace noted.
Børns Vilkår has also noticed that the problems that previously plagued 14-16-year-olds have now also moved down to 10-12-year-olds.
Rasmus Kjeldahl says that there is also an increase in the number of children with diagnoses, and for them, it can be a big challenge to go to school if they are not adequately taken care of.
“It’s not far from feeling like you don’t work fit in well with your classmates or being bullied to having these suicidal thoughts. And then there is also a lot of pressure on social media,” he noted.
The Danish Mental Health Fund (Psykiatrifonden) offers a lot of materials related to, among other things, myths and misunderstandings about suicide and what you can do as a person close to someone at risk of suicide.
The organisation recommends the following three actions if you encounter suicidal behaviour:
- Talk about it – ask the person about the situation directly.
- Don’t leave that person alone.
- Try and find access to professional help for the person in question.