Dame Caroline Dinenage, Gosport’s MP, has joined forces with the Luna Foundation, which helps children who lose a parent or primary care giver to suicide, to break down the ‘wall of silence’ surrounding the number of young people taking their lives.
The partnership comes after figures revealed that children who lose a parent or primary career to suicide are three times more likely to take their own life, and two times more likely to be hospitalised with depression.
Now the MP hopes to force a major debate in parliament in a bid to tackle the crisis, which she said left her feeling ‘disturbed’.
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Speaking during a Department for Education parliamentary session, Dame Caroline grilled education minister Will Quince on what action the government was taking.
She told MPs: ‘I was really disturbed to learn recently that there is evidence to suggest that children who lose a parent to suicide have a much greater risk of going on to take their own life as they grow older.’
The debate came as a worrying study by the British Journal of Psychiatry revealed that by the age of 17, seven per cent of children had attempted to take their own life, with almost one in four claiming to have self-harmed.
Responding to Dame Caroline, Mr Quince said that ‘it is indeed a worrying state of affairs’ and that an extra £10m had been given to schools to help children’s mental health.
But he added: ‘I understand that we probably need to go further in this area, and of course I would be happy to meet my honourable friend to discuss it at greater length.’
Dame Caroline is determined to bring rapid change and is working alongside Anna Wardley, chief executive of Luna, to do this.
Anna, of Gosport, said: ‘We are delighted to be working with Dame Caroline to draw attention to the needs of children bereaved by suicide, especially those who lose a parent or primary caregiver.
‘What happens is there is a wall of silence when people end up going back to school, which is usually very soon after.’
Anna has been working alongside Portsmouth City Council to help create online training sessions that can be accessed by people working around children.
She said during her Churchill Fellowship Research programme, she realised the number of children that lose a parent to suicide annually is not recorded.
One of her missions is to change this so that people know how many children need support and reverse the stigma that surrounds suicide.
She has also been working with other authorities across the country to try and roll out the training to everyone that works with children, and is hoping that this will come into force in the next year.
Anna added: ‘It is a massive mission. We are going to roll this training across the UK over the next year. That is huge. It is a huge target but I feel there is such urgency.
‘Portsmouth is leading the way and we are so happy to be working with them in partnership to see what can be achieved and the difference we can make.’
For support you can contact Samaritans by calling 116 123 or email them at [email protected]
Amparo supports people across Hampshire after a suicide and can be contacted on: [email protected]