Self-harm and attempted suicide in young people looked after in state care

Wendy Cousins, Iain McGowan, Sharon Milner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As Northern Ireland recovers from 30 years of violence, political focus has moved to address social issues in the post-conflict environment. In particular, suicide rates in Northern Ireland have steadily increased over the last three decades leading to the recognition of suicide as a major public health issue in the region. Statistics relating to hospital admissions for self-harm in Northern Ireland indicate that the number of such admissions has increased by 9% since 2000. In 2006 the Northern Ireland Suicide Prevention Strategy was launched with the strategic aim ‘to reduce the Northern Ireland suicide rate, particularly among young people and those most at risk.’ However no specific mention is made of young people who live in state care. This paper uses social worker accounts to highlight the emotional and behavioural vulnerabilities as measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) in a group of adolescents (n=165) who are ‘looked after’ away from home. It was found that 49.6% of the young people scored within the abnormal range of the SDQ Total Difficulties score and social worker reported \r\nprevalence of suicidal behaviour (10.3%) and self-harm (12.7%) was high. It is argued that widespread special interventions need to be put in place for this especially vulnerable population.\r\n\r\nDownload PDF:
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-54
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Children's and Young People's Nursing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2014


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