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Struggling to cope: Child suicide

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‘Struggling to cope’: child suicide rates may rise as intentional self-poisoning rates double

The number of Australian children deliberately poisoning themselves with drugs like paracetamol and antidepressants has doubled in the past decade, which medical experts say may predict a future rise in youth suicide rates.

The authors of the study, published in the medical journal BMJ Open on Thursday, said the findings suggest a generation struggling to cope.

Researchers led by the University of Sydney and the NSW Poisons Information Centre analysed 70% of calls made to poison information centres between 2006 and 2016. They found 33,501 deliberate poisonings in youth aged between five and 19, and that more children were poisoning themselves from a younger age.

The most commonly ingested substances were those found commonly in households such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, antidepressants and antipsychotics. Intentional poisonings increased 98% overall across one decade, largely driven by a significant increase in poisonings in young people born after 1997. Girls outnumbered boys three to one.

“Our results indicate a generation that is increasingly engaging in self harm … Since people who self-harm are at an increased risk of suicide later in life, these results may foretell future increases in suicide rates in Australia,” the study concluded.

Self-poisoning is the most common method of self-harm in Australia, accounting for 80% of cases, and suicide is the leading cause of death in those aged between 15 and 44.

The study also examined trends in medicine dispensing through the pharmaceutical benefits scheme (PBS) database.


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