"Suicide does not discriminate and is relentless especially during COVID-19"

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the life of every child in the country. It is not only an unprecedented public health emergency, but also a challenge our society and our economy have not seen in peacetime.

COVID-19 is having a huge impact on the way most of us live our lives. Staying at home, not being able to go out and see friends or family, and not being able to do the things we usually do, can affect us in different ways. We might feel concerned or upset by the news, or by things we hear or read about COVID-19. It might make us feel isolated, lonely, angry, or depressed about the future.

Some of us might have thoughts of hurting ourselves, as a way of controlling our emotions, or wanting a release from how we feel. When we start to feel really low or alone, we might even have thoughts of wanting to end our life.

If you are thinking about hurting yourself or ending your life, it is important to know that you are not alone. You can still get the right support and help you need during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The National Child Mortality Database said there were 25 likely child suicides during the first 56 days of lockdown. This harrowing data sends goosebumps and complete devastation.

26 likely suicide deaths were identified in the 82 days before lockdown (1st January to 22nd March 2020) and 25 in the 56 days of lockdown (23rd March 2020-17th May 2020).

There was a possible, but not statistically significant, trend that likely suicide deaths may have increased after 22nd March compared to the period from 1st January 2020 to 22nd March 2020.

Of the 24 cases reviewed, in eight (33%) the individuals were specified as being under current follow- up with mental health services or social care and a further six (25%) children had previous contact with mental health services or social care.

Altogether, 14 (58%) were reported as having some current or past contact with services. In 12, this contact was with mental health services; six (25% overall) of these children had a diagnosis of ASD, ADHD or both.

What this study tells us:

• There is a possible trend that child suicide deaths may have increased during the first phase of the English COVID-19 lockdown period. • The causes are unclear but restrictions to education and other activities, disruption to care and support services, tensions at home and isolation appeared to be important factors. • A continued focus on children previously known to mental health services during periods of social distancing appears appropriate (*research derived from The National Child Mortality Database)

What is Self-Harm?

Self-harm is when you hurt or harm yourself on purpose, usually when you have feelings that are distressing and unbearable. Some people do it to control their emotions or to feel relief from uncomfortable feelings.

The impact of COVID-19 may have affected how you are coping with your feelings. It might trigger distressing feelings that you may have experienced in the past or that you might be experiencing for the first time.

What are suicidal thoughts?

Suicidal thoughts are thoughts a person has about wanting to end their life to be free from unbearable emotional or physical pain. These might be general thoughts about not wanting to be alive, or specific thoughts about how to end one’s life.

The uncertainty around COVID-19 might make you feel helpless and hopeless about your life or your future. Being at home all the time can make you feel more isolated and alone, and can make these thoughts feel more powerful and occur more frequently.

What can I do?

If you find yourself experiencing distressing feelings more and more during the COVID-19 pandemic, then it is a good idea to talk to a mental health professional. They can help you manage your distress and also work with you to find ways to stay well. Your GP can help you find a service close to you, or you can search for one on the NHS website.

It is important to remember that the thoughts of hurting yourself will pass. There are things you can do right now to help you cope with the distress you might be feeling. It can help to come up with a list or a plan that you can follow whenever you feel like hurting yourself. These things all work differently for different people, so find the one that works best for you:

· Get through the next 5 minutes. Focus on what you can see, hear, smell, touch or taste.

· Talk to someone you trust. If that person doesn’t live with you, you can call them by phone or video call

· Talk to someone on a helpline for people who are struggling with their mental health.

· Remove anything sharp or dangerous you might use to hurt yourself, or ask someone else to do this for you

· Distract yourself. Listen to music, watch a video, have a hot shower or find something else to do in the house that can help take your mind off how you feel.

· Go outside for one form of exercise each day. Go for a walk, run or cycle, while following the government’s advice on social distancing, to make sure you get some fresh air.

· Try to find something relaxing to do. Focus your mind through meditation, yoga, muscle relaxation or mindfulness activities can help reduce some of the physical tension you might be feeling.

· Find another way to express your feelings when you have the urge to harm yourself, such as painting, drawing, screaming into a pillow or drawing red lines on your skin,

· Give yourself 'harmless pain'. For example, eat a hot chilli, squeeze ice cubes or have a cold shower.

· Write a diary or a letter to express your feelings. No one else ever needs to see it.

Accessing Mental Health support is crucial. Children taking their own lives is a tragedy, it is preventable, and our passion is to address the first notion of depression in children and provide intervention at the first instance to avoid heartbreakingly data like this.

We can and will protect others,

Peace and Love to You All,

Michaela Johnson

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