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Charity's plea over suicide calls

One in six calls made to ChildLine in Wales last year about mental health were from girls who talked about suicide, it has emerged. Research by the children's 24-hour hotline found some girls even rang them while trying to take their own life.

In all the charity, which is urging more funding, had almost 1,000 calls on mental health problems.

The assembly government voiced concern about suicide rates among young people in Wales and said it was taking action.

On one occasion a counsellor with the service now provided by the NSPCC even helped save the life of a girl who had taken an overdose in her bedroom while her parents were downstairs, unaware of what was going on.

After getting the youngster's agreement, the counsellor called the emergency services. An ambulance arrived at the house in time to save the girl and her father rang ChildLine the following day to thank them.

Four out of five - a total of 157 - suicide calls received by ChildLine at Rhyl and Swansea last year came from girls, but there were also 36 from boys.

Difficulties outlined by callers typically included living with someone with mental health problems or with parents who were abusive, neglectful or who drank too much.

One 15-year-old boy said: "I've taken some tablets and drunk a bottle of vodka.

"There's no point. No-one cares about me. My mum didn't even notice that I've self-harmed. I have nothing to feel good about anymore."

A girl of 14 pleaded: "Mum has been on anti-depressants for years. The doctor wants her to keep taking them but she's stopped.

"It's really scary. I feel like I've had to raise myself - it's made me lonely and depressed."

Despite the higher number of calls from girls, official statistics show that suicide rates among 15-21-year-olds were about three times higher for males than females.

Crisis point
ChildLine Cymru/Wales service manager Jonathan Green urged the Welsh Assembly Government to give mental health urgent attention, saying there were not enough therapeutic services for children

"When young people talk about suicide they are obviously in deep despair," Mr Green said.

"They are at crisis point with no-one else to turn to which is why they call us.

"We are able to give immediate advice to these young people, who are going through a terrifying experience but it is clear that those who call us with serious problems many need more intensive therapeutic support over a sustained period."

An assembly government spokesperson said they were taking action across a range of areas to ensure young people access to services.

It will shortly be consulting on a national strategy for counselling in school which aims to ensure provision is available to school pupils.

The spokesperson said they will also be strengthening child and adolescent mental health services by building a balanced range across health, education and social care services.
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