The number of women and girls between the ages of 10 and 24 recorded as having taken their own lives has increased by 94 per cent since 2012, from 81 to 159 last year – a record high for England and Wales, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Overall, 1,299 deaths were registered as suicide among females in England in 2019, up from 1,221 deaths registered in the previous year, marking the highest rate since the year 2004.
While suicide among men remains considerably higher, experts have raised concerns about the unprecedented rise in young women taking their lives, highlighting the role of social media.
The figures show regional disparities, with the highest female suicide rate recorded in Yorkshire and the Humber, at 7.3 per 100,000, compared with 4.1 per 1000,000 in the northeast (the area with the lowest rate) and 5.2 per 100,000 in the whole of England.
Tom Madders, director of campaigns at YoungMinds, said the increase was “worrying”.
He said traumatic experiences at a young age – such as bereavement, bullying or abuse – as well as school pressure, racism, concerns about how you look and difficult relationships with family or friends, could have a significant impact on girls’ and young women’s mental health
“While there is higher awareness about mental health than in the past, many young people who are suicidal still find it hard to reach out for help until they hit crisis point,” he added.
Andrew Fellowes, associate head of policy and public affairs at the NSPCC, said: “For any young person to die by suicide is tragic and it is alarming and deeply upsetting to see rates increasing.
“Childline is always here for a young person struggling with their mental health and having suicidal thoughts and feelings.
“It’s also absolutely vital that government continues to prioritise funding for children’s mental health in the NHS so no young person goes without support before reaching crisis point.”
Overall suicide rates in England increased by 6 per cent in the year to 2019, from 5,021 in 2018 to 5,316. In England and Wales, around three-quarters of registered deaths in 2019 were among men (4,303 deaths), which follows a consistent trend back to the mid-1990s.
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The rise among females aged 10-24 has been the most significant, with 1.6 deaths per 100,000 recorded in 2012, compared with 3.1 in 2019.
However, there has been a substantial fall in the rates among women aged 45 years and over. The figure fell by 54 per cent for those aged 45 to 64 years between 1981 and 2019, 75 per cent for those aged 65 to 74 years, and 73 per cent for those aged 75 years and over.
If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.
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