Hundreds of Northumberland young people admitted to hospital due to self-harm

The latest rate of hospital admissions for young people in Northumberland due to self-harm was significantly higher than in England or the North East.

Sunday, 15th September 2019, 8:00 am
Updated Friday, 20th September 2019, 9:23 am
Mental Wealth

There were 341 10 to 24-year-olds in the county admitted to hospital for self-harm incidents in 2017-18, which represents a rate of 720.5 per 100,000 population, against rates of 458 in the region and 421.2 across England.

This is just one of the stark statistics included in a new report, entitled Mental Wealth, from Northumberland’s director of public health (DPH).

Every DPH in England has a statutory duty to write an annual report on the health of the local population and the local authority has a duty to publish it.

The 2018 document for Northumberland, by DPH Liz Morgan, which was presented at Thursday’s meeting of the county council’s health and wellbeing board, emphasises the links between mental and physical health.

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Explaining why she chose this topic, she told members that it’s ‘an area where we continue to see inequalities across our communities’ as well as being one of the themes of the Northumberland Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

Summarising some of the key points from the 56-page report, Ms Morgan underlined the impact that ‘toxic stress’ has on childhood development, adding: “I’m absolutely passionate about getting it right in the early years.”

The document notes that 67% of the population have at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE), a summary term for those issues which have the biggest impact on a child’s mental and physical development and health. It includes the likes of abuse and neglect as well as household challenges such as domestic violence, substance abuse or divorce.

Children with four or more ACEs are 30 times more likely to take their own lives in later years.

The DPH also emphasised that older people should be considered an asset, not a burden, with a large majority making a significant contribution through volunteering or caring, and therefore promoting their mental wellbeing is also crucial.

The report concludes with five recommendations, which are:

To make Northumberland a county which is more aware of the impact of adverse childhood experiences across the life course;

To support all schools to adopt a whole-school approach to promoting mental health and wellbeing;

To prioritise mental wellbeing in the workplace as part of the North East Better Health at Work Award;

To grow initiatives which increase social connectedness;

To make a cross-sector commitment to prevention through the Prevention Concordat for Better Mental Health.

Coun Wayne Daley, the cabinet member for children’s services, welcomed the ‘excellent report’ and said: “It’s important that we recognise the really good work that schools are doing.”

He pointed out that alongside the likes of the council and the NHS, parents and carers have to play a key role, adding: “With the best will in the world, schools can’t do everything.”

Outside the meeting, Ms Morgan said: “In Northumberland, our public health approach has a focus on the factors that support health and wellbeing as well as those that lead to illness. This includes things like being plugged into networks and groups in communities and feeling in control of your life.

“There are a number of things we can do collectively to support good mental health, so my report looks at the bigger picture and examines mental health across the life course.

“There are many things we can do to prevent mental ill health and improve mental wellbeing and we need to continue to work together to deliver them at scale and pace.”

Coun Veronica Jones, the cabinet member for adult wellbeing and health, added: “Poor mental health is one of the biggest contributors to ill health and in some cases, early death.

“We recognise good mental health and wellbeing is essential for good health.

“We have made significant progress in recent years to improve the health of our residents, but have more work to do and we welcome the focus of this report, particularly as it is one of the cross-cutting themes in our new Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy.”