Suicide prevention charity boss warns of distress legacy as calls surge

A suicide prevention charity has warned of a “longer-term problem of emotional distress” for young people, following a surge in calls for help.

Ged Flynn, chief executive of Papyrus Prevention of Young Suicide, said around nine in 10 calls, texts and emails to its Hopeline service since lockdown referenced coronavirus, with children and young adults concerned about their own mental health or about the livelihood of loved ones.

He said there has been a particular surge in the last two weeks, with many concerned about a loss of income, reduction in service provision, domestic violence and abuse, and the potential to become infected with Covid-19.

Mr Flynn told the PA news agency: “There is concern in the charity that there will be a longer-term problem of emotional distress post-lockdown.

“I fear that a whole generation of young people may feel the impact of the current crisis for a good while yet.

“We are already taking high volumes of calls, texts and emails from young people every day with thoughts of suicide or from those who fear for somebody in their family or place of work who may have. Call rates are now increasing.

“Suicidal ideation is already complex but if we add in the reality of lockdown and what may follow into that mix, then we are talking about an even more-tangled web of difficulty for people, the likes of which they have never experienced.

“For children and young people, these are bewildering times. For those who are vulnerable to suicide ideation, they can be particularly difficult.”

Mr Flynn said declines in daily coronavirus cases, and confirmation from ministers that the UK had past the peak of deaths, had provided some positivity to young people.

But he said the easing of lockdown measures may increase anxiety for some people.

He said: “At first we all had to batten down the hatches and get our heads around what was happening to the world.

“Now we are starting to see the narrative around it has got quite scary, now the home nations are easing lockdown restrictions, even people with no previous mental health concerns are starting to become concerned about going out.

“We’ve all felt more positive as those graphs start turning down, that has to give us all hope.

“And so I’ve got two messages: for parents – don’t wait until you identify that your child may be in distress before reaching out.

“And to young people – don’t suffer in silence, find the courage, you can talk to us.”

To contact the Hopeline visit or telephone 0800 068 4141.

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