Boys less likely than girls to seek support for suicidal feelings

Boys in Northern Ireland are less likely than girls to seek help if they are feeling suicidal, according to the NSPCC.

Childline is urging boys to speak out as figures reveal they are significantly less likely than girls to talk to counsellors about thoughts of ending their lives.

In 2015/16, Childline delivered over twice as many counselling sessions to girls in Northern Ireland compared to boys, where the child’s gender was known with 70 sessions delivered to boys and 168 to girls.

Statistics show that across Northern Ireland, more than twice as many boys aged 10-19 died by suicide than girls in 2015.

Overall, the NSPCC-run service delivered 349 counselling sessions to children across Northern Ireland who had suicidal thoughts and feelings, with the true value likely to be higher because not all children contacting the service revealed where they were from.

This week Childline launches its new ‘Tough to Talk’ campaign, backed by Manchester United and England footballer Wayne Rooney. The campaign which includes a film ‘Things Guys Don’t Talk About’, aims to empower boys to seek support for suicidal feelings.

Across the UK, Childline counselled 11,463 girls compared to just 1,934 boys in 2015/2016.

The boys who did get in touch with Childline talked about a wide range of issues including relationship worries, abuse, bullying, sexuality and gender identity and mental health issues alongside feeling suicidal. Across the UK, 12-15 year olds were most likely to be counselled about suicide.

In 20% of counselling sessions where boys mentioned if they had confided in anyone else, they said it was the first time they had spoken to anybody about their suicidal thoughts or feelings.

In Northern Ireland, the NSPCC is calling for the Department of Health’s suicide prevention strategy to have a greater focus on children and young people.

The charity also wants to see increased investment to address the lack of specialised mental health services for children across Northern Ireland and is encouraging the department to promote Childline as a support network for young people to try and tackle the issue of self-harm and suicide.

Head of NSPCC for Northern Ireland, Neil Anderson, said: “We need to see a greater focus on children and young people when looking at how we can tackle the issues around suicide in Northern Ireland.

“Children need to be able to access the services they need, when they need them most.

“Children struggling with suicidal feelings can often feel alone with nobody to talk to and nowhere to turn for help. For boys in particular it can be harder to ask for help due to reluctance to talk about their feelings, and this is highlighted by the fact that girls across Northern Ireland were over twice as likely to contact Childline for help on the issue than boys.

“We hope that by putting the spotlight on male suicide we can help boys see that they are not alone. If they can’t talk to friends or parents then Childline is here to listen to them, whenever they need us.”

  • Children and young people can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk.