Suicide rate for young people in Northern Ireland more than twice that of England
YOUNG people in Northern Ireland are more than twice as likely to take their own lives compared to England.
New figures show that the rate of suicides in teenagers and people in their early twenties has risen in recent years, according to a report by Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
Suicides among those aged 15-24 in Northern Ireland increased to 17.8 deaths per 100,000 from 17.2 recorded in a similar report in 2017 - the highest rate in the UK.
The suicide rate among people aged 15-24 increased across the UK overall.
Northern Ireland has the second highest number of admissions to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), at a rate of 40 per 100,000 people.
Only Scotland has a higher figure of 61.
The figures compare data published in the State of Child Health 2017 - typically based on 2014 data - against latest information available as of February 21 2020.
The report did show some positive changes, with a sharp decrease in deaths among children between the ages of one and nine and an increase in breastfeeding rates from 22.8 per cent to 23.9 per cent.
The infant mortality rate in Northern Ireland also fell from 4.8 per 1,000 live births to 4.2.
However, the rate is still the highest in the UK, ahead of England on 3.9 per 1,000 births.
Rates of child poverty, cancer mortality and smoking among young people have also decreased and are now the lowest in the UK.
SDLP MLA Sinead Bradley said while the report did show some positive findings, she was deeply concerned by the suicide figures.
"It is incredibly worrying that that suicide rate among young people in the north has increased in the last number of years," she said.
"It is also the highest rate in the UK. There are some positive elements in this report, including the decrease in child poverty and the lower levels of alcohol and smoking, but for the most part it is a worrying read."
Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw also said the report showed a "mixed picture, with some real hope".
"Youth suicide and infant mortality were already at an unacceptably high level and in many areas are rising, and we are not doing anything like enough to encourage general physical and mental well-being, including through physical activity," she said.
"Too many people in Northern Ireland are also in neither employment nor training.
"Young people are now entering a society where we have a two-tier health service with access to diagnostics and treatment often determined by means to pay to go private, and a public health system which is still too much about tackling problems when they arise rather than preventing them in the first place."
Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew, meanwhile, said urgent action is needed to tackle infant mortality rates.
“While I welcome the news that infant mortality is decreasing overall, it is deeply concerning that our progress in tackling this challenge lags considerably behind the progress made everywhere else across these islands," he said.
“Infant mortality remains considerably higher in the more deprived communities across the north.
“If we are to make any meaningful progress in giving every child an equal chance to survive and to flourish then we must work to tackle poverty and inequality across the north.”