Surge in teenage overdose cases

PARAMEDICS in east Suffolk are being called to teenagers who have taken an overdose at least once every three days, The Evening Star can reveal today.In September and October ambulances the area were called out to 22 youngsters under 18 who had taken overdoses.

PARAMEDICS in east Suffolk are being called to teenagers who have taken an overdose at least once every three days, The Evening Star can reveal today.

In September and October ambulances the area were called out to 22 youngsters under 18 who had taken overdoses.

The youngest was just 11 and six others were 14 or under.

The alarming statistics, released by the East Anglian Ambulance Trust, reflect the worrying trend of increasing numbers of young people attempting to take their own lives and show the desperate need for out-of-hours mental health provision for children and young people in Suffolk.

Of the 22, paramedics had to take 16 to hospital and nine of these were outside normal office hours, meaning no trained psychiatric staff would have been on hand to deal with them.

Earlier this week The Evening Star revealed the shocking stories of suicidal youngsters waiting more than 12 hours to get help after being rushed to hospital as an emergency, because there are no 24-hour child psychiatrists on-call in east Suffolk.

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The situation almost resulted in tragedy when a 15-year-old girl had to wait 13 hours before seeing a doctor. She was then taken to a treatment centre in Surrey where she plunged from the roof and suffered critical injuries.

Alan Staff, director of modernisation for the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership Trust, said the ambulance figures reflect a growing trend.

He said: “Nationally, we are seeing an increase in this kind of self-harming behaviour.

“In some cases it is the result of a trend, rather than serious mental health problems. It has got to the point where you can find websites which will tell you, not only how to take an overdose, but also find you a 'buddy' to do it at the same time.”

Mr Staff said that it was important to differentiate between the different overdose calls the ambulance crews receive.

He said: “There are overdoses that are linked to recreational drug use which are not intentional, overdoses which are not life-threatening and can be dealt with fairly quickly and, of course, those which are genuinely intended to end one's life.

“There is also a strong link between overdoses and alcohol.

“There is a difference between somebody who is genuinely depressed and wanting to end their life and somebody who feels the world has come to an end after they have consumed too much alcohol.”

Have you had to wait to see child psychiatrist? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk