Rise in suicide attempts among children in Denmark causes concern among experts

Experts are worried about the recent increase in suicide attempts among children in Denmark.

Recently, children's mental health has gained more attention in public discussions in Denmark. Photo by Komorebi Photo / Unsplash

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.

Experts worried

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:

  1. Talk about it – ask the person about the situation directly.
  2. Don’t leave that person alone.
  3. Try and find access to professional help for the person in question.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


’No quick fix’ for Danish cancer waiting lists: health minister

Health Minister Sophie Løhde said on Thursday that she “deeply regrets” missed deadlines for bowel cancer treatment at Aarhus University Hospital, but that the government does not have an immediate fix for the problem.

’No quick fix’ for Danish cancer waiting lists: health minister

Danish law requires cancer patients to be operated on within two weeks of the decision to operate being made.

Broadcaster DR recently reported that 182 patients had waited too long for an operation at Aarhus University Hospital (AUH). Following DR’s report, a Region Central Jutland survey found that 293 patients had waited for more than the two weeks prescribed by law over the past year.

Løhde was asked at a briefing on Tuesday whether bowel cancer patients at AUH can now expected to be operated on within two weeks.

“In reality, that should have happened the entire time. I can’t stand here and guarantee that it will happen again tomorrow or the next day, as much as I’d like to,” she said.

“What I can guarantee is that this has the utmost attention on the part of the government.

“That’s why we have acted resolutely and on Friday presented a regeneration plan for the entire cancer treatment area, where we are saying we want to get to the bottom of this. We want everything out in the open,”she said.

The plan referenced by Løhde was presented by the government at the end of last week following the release of the Region Central Jutland survey.

It includes a request for the Danish Health Authority to review waiting times, capacities and compliance with waiting lists for cancer treatment in each of Denmark’s five regional health authorities. The review must be completed by July 1st.

Regional authorities must also review how they inform patients of their rights, the government has demanded.

Additionally, Regions must live up to their obligations to seek alternative treatment opportunities for patients in other locations if waiting times cannot be met.

READ ALSO: What exactly is wrong with the Danish health system?