CHILDREN who experience suicidal thoughts face a “wall of silence” over the issue, new research shows.

Academics from Stirling University found mental health professionals treating children with suicidal feelings avoid using the word “suicide” when discussing their feelings with them.

Instead, more general terms such as “self-harm” are used which have the potential to make children feel they are not being listened to.

The study also suggested children and young people with suicidal feelings typically do not know where or how to access help.

Lynne Gilmour, from Stirling’s Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit, said suicide was the second leading cause of death in young people globally, but there was no agreed treatment model.

She said: “We found that, in general, suicidal children and young people do not know where, or how, to access help, they cannot access help directly and when they do see a mental health practitioner, they often don’t feel listened to.

“We also identified a silence ... within the conversations that children and young people have with mental health practitioners and within academic research which aims to explore young people’s views.

“Use of the term self-harm to encompass suicidal behaviours potentially contributes to this science by avoiding the word suicide.”

The research came after ministers were accused of failing to do enough to tackle the growing mental health crisis in schools.

Leading charities told The Herald the Scottish Government was too focused on the treatment of pupils once they had developed issues such as anxiety and depression.

Instead, they want a greater focus on teaching all pupils the skills they need to cope with stress.

The campaign has been backed by Frances Beck, a teacher from Ayrshire who lost her son Conor to suicide last year, aged just 24.

Conor was bullied at school and his mother told The Herald more could have been done to develop his mental resilience.

Since 2015 there has been a 20 per cent rise in the number of pupils being referred to specialist child and adolescent mental health services.

Research last year also revealed teachers lack the training and confidence to help address mental health concerns with their pupils.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recently announced £60 million funding to provide mental health counsellors in every secondary school as well as extra 250 school nurses.

The Scottish Government has also agreed to the recommendations of a wider review of school personal and social education (PSE) which will see better training of teachers.

However, the Mental Health Foundation Scotland charity argues the measures do not go far enough.

Toni Giugliano, the foundation’s policy manager, said: “Counsellors should be seen as part of a much wider package of support. The PSE review was an opportunity to put personal development, self-care, life skills and emotional intelligence at the heart of the school curriculum and it has failed to do so.

Mr Giugliano said PSE lessons were an ideal platform to tackle issues such as body image, social media, self-esteem, academic pressure and relationships while giving pupils practical tips on how to manage their emotions.

He added: “Right now there’s a gap in Scotland’s education system and more support is needed from central and local government to ensure delivery is consistent across the country. Unless we put more emphasis on this we’ll continue to see more pupils in crisis and distress.”

Kirsten Hogg, head of policy for the Barnado’s Scotland charity, said an “opportunity had been missed” with health and mental wellbeing of pupils still the “poor relation” to literacy and numeracy.