THE NUMBER of young people dying by suicide is “nothing short of a public health emergency”, a Torfaen AM has said.

Lynne Neagle, who chairs the National Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee, has called for the emotional and mental health of children and young people to become a stated national priority.

“Nothing is more important than preventing young people dying by suicide,” she said.

The latest Child Death Review, published by Public Health Wales and Swansea University, examined the deaths of all children and young people who died by suicide between 2013 and 2017.

The report examined 33 cases and found there is no single reason why a child or young person commits suicide, concluding that a variety of risk factors, circumstances and adverse experiences can contribute.

Ms Neagle said: “It is very hard to put into words the enormity of losing a child or young person to suicide.

“The loss of every one of the 33 children and young people included in this review is an immense tragedy which will have devastated families, friends, schools and whole communities.”

She added that the review identifies “clear opportunities for suicide prevention”.

“The challenge now is for those of us in a position to influence and change policy in Wales to really push for those opportunities to be embraced with vigour, determination and urgency.

“We owe it to the young people who died by suicide and to those young people who are still with us and need our support.

“As a Committee, we have tried to ensure that we listen to young people and have the views of young people at the heart of everything we do. I recently spoke at a conference about young people’s mental health and emphasised the importance of listening to children and young people.

“At the end a delegate came up to me and asked me what the young people who had died by suicide would say if they were there that day. I found those incredibly difficult, challenging and painful words to hear because of course we cannot ask them.

“That is why this thematic review is so very, very important – it is the nearest thing we have to retrospective recommendations directly from those young people themselves about how we could have helped them and how to prevent future deaths.

“It is the closest thing we have to hearing the voices of those young people who have died by suicide.”