Child suicide on rise in Hungary

September 30, 2016

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On any given weekend Budapest’s Heim Pál children’s hospital treats 20-25 percent of its patients for attempting suicide.  Lack of funding and the failure of the state health services to provide money already promised is a serious obstacle to treating the most serious cases.

Gyula Sófi, the head doctor of the psychiatric ward at Heim Pál, told conservative print daily Magyar Nemzet that 25 percent of Hungarian youths have recurrent thoughts of suicide, and 12 percent have thought it would be better if they weren’t alive,

The data comes from a European international survey taken five years ago of 14- to 16-year-olds which studied rates of suicide in that age group. The situation has probably deteriorated in Hungary since then, writes Magyar Nemzet, because more recent data compiled in Hungary shows a troubling trend. According to the Central Statistical Office, two children under the age of 14 committed suicide in 2014, and three in 2015. Suicides for those between 15-19 years of age were 23 in 2014 and 27 in 2015.

Experiments are ongoing at the Heim Pál children’s hospital to analyze the psychological, psychiatric, educational, criminal and drug-use links to children who have attempted suicide. No final results have been published, but Sófi said the age at which children attempt to harm themselves is going down dramatically.

In spring last year the government asked Hungarian health professionals, including doctors at Heim Pál, to develop a program to provide children the kind of mental health treatment necessary to assure their intellectual and psychological well-being. The plans called for HUF 6 billion (USD 21.8 million) to be provided by the Secretariat for State Health and would have been initiated this year, but the money never arrived. The state health service did say it would invest HUF 6 billion in the coming years toward improving child and youth psychiatry, addiction assistance and the mental healthcare system.

According to Sófi 25-30 percent of the children his hospital treats on any given weekend are there because of suicide attempts. The renewed building in District XIII’s Gyöngyösi street could be treating the most serious cases and providing a home for a new children’s mental health and addiction center. Instead, because of lack of funding and the failure of state health services to provide money already promised, the needed infrastructural and operational changes cannot be made. HUF 1.5-1.8 billion (USD 5.4-6.5 million) — less than a third of the money pledged for the program — is required to bring the building up to operational status, but decision makers are dragging their feet.