Ireland has one of the highest teen suicide rates in the EU

UNICEF says its latest report card is a 'wake-up call'

Ireland has one of the highest teen suicide rates in the EU

Image: © UNICEF/UNI195858/Giuseppe Imperato

Ireland has the fourth highest teen suicide rate in the European Union, according to UNICEF's latest report card on child well-being.

Ireland has an above average international suicide rate amongst adolescents aged 15-19 per 100,000 population - ranking 34th out of 37 wealthy nations surveyed.

The report is the first to assess the status of children in 41 high-income countries in relation to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), identified as most important for child well-being.

It ranks countries based on their performance against the SDGs - which were launched in 2016 - and details the challenges and opportunities that advanced economies face in achieving global commitments to children.

UNICEF Ireland chief executive Peter Power said: "UNICEF's latest report card serves as a wake-up call for Ireland.

"Despite economic recovery and the idea that the consequent rising tide will benefit everyone, it is clear children are experiencing real and substantial inequality and we risk leaving them behind. Services are inadequate in several areas and policy change is badly needed."

Mr Power told Newstalk Breakfast they want policy-makers to have all the information.

"It's not really for UNICEF to diagnose precisely what the issues are - although we can discuss our views in relation to this - but the main objective in a repot such as this... is to make the information available to the policy-makers, to the legislators, to the decision-makers, to the people in the health sector."

The report also shows a rise in self-reported adolescent mental health issues, indicating that teenagers themselves have concerns about their mental health.

Some 22.6% of children aged 11-15 report experiencing two or more psychological symptoms more than once a week.

The report also found that 18.3% of children are living in relative income poverty, 23% are living in multidimensional poverty and 17.9% of children under 15 live with an adult who is food insecure.

Mr Power explains: "Relative income poverty is where a child is in a household at below the medium, which is 60% of the average income.

"That figure has been stubbornly high in Ireland for a number of years now.

"In relation to multidimensional poverty, Ireland ranked 10th - which certainly isn't the worst overall - but that takes in a much broader ranger other than just financial aspects.

"You could be talking about nutrition poverty... In Ireland, we're showing that we're not eating the right foods and we've got one of the highest obesity rates in the EU/OECD - and again, that's another significant health factor".

Source: UNICEF
While the teen birth rate in Ireland has dropped to 10.09 births per 1,000 girls age 15-19, down from 17.36 in 2005.
 
And the number of teens reporting being drunk in the past month is down to 4.8%.

Across the wider region, one in five children in high-income countries lives in relative income poverty, and an average of one in eight faces food insecurity, rising to one in five in the UK.

UNICEF is calling on high-income countries to take action in key areas:

  • Put children at the heart of equitable and sustainable progress - improving the well-being of all children today is essential for achieving both equity and sustainability
  • Leave no child behind - national averages often conceal extreme inequalities and the severe disadvantage of groups at the bottom of the scale
  • Improve the collection of comparable data - in particular on violence against children, early childhood development, migration and gender
  • Use the rankings to help tailor policy responses to national contexts - no country does well on all indicators of well-being for children and all countries face challenges in achieving at least some child-focused SDG targets

Anyone affected by issues raised in this article can contact The Semaritans on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org or get more information here