Self-harm cases have more than tripled in young girls - how and where to seek help

Monday, 1st February 2021, 12:21 pm
Updated Monday, 1st February 2021, 12:22 pm
Do you know someone who might need support? (Photo: Shutterstock)

Self-harm admissions to hospital in England among teenage girls have more than tripled in the last decade, NHS data has suggested.

The “alarming” figures have been attributed to the rise in young people struggling with mental health problems.

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Female self-harm cases rising

Around 9,675 self-harm admissions to English hospitals were for patients aged between 13 and 30 in 2019/20, according to the latest data released by NHS Digital.

This marks a rise of 84 per cent from 5,245 in the decade previous, in 2009/10.

The figures, which are rounded by the NHS to the nearest five per region and age range, indicate that the total self-harm admissions among young people in England has risen in eight out of the 10 years from 2009/10.

However, data shows that the number of self-harm admissions involving females far outweighs those involving males every year since 2009/10, with the percentage widening every year bar one over the last decade.

Females currently account for two-thirds (69 per cent) of all cases among those aged 13 to 30, which is an increase of 56 per cent from a decade ago.

Self-harm admissions have more than doubled in the last 10 years, with cases rising from 2,950 to 6,720, according to the data. By comparison, male cases have only increased slightly from 2,295 to 2,955, which is a rise of 29 per cent.

Teenage boys and girls now make up the most common age profile for self-harm admissions at 41 per cent, compared with just 26 in 2009/10. Ten years ago, the most common age group admitted to hospital with self-inflicted injuries were those in the 18 to 22 age category (32 per cent), followed by those aged between 23 and 27 (27 per cent).

Why are young cases rising?

The sharp rise in cases underline the “worrying increase in the number of children struggling with mental health problems”, according to Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England.

She explained: “This very alarming rise in the number of children self-harming highlights the worrying increase in the number of children struggling with mental health problems.

“While there have been welcome improvements in some areas of children’s mental health services over the last couple of years, the scale of the problem is getting bigger and the Covid crisis has made it even worse.

“It is vital that more is done to tackle children’s mental health problems early. Every school needs an NHS-funded counsellor, and I want to see a children’s mental health service that is properly funded, with no postcode lottery, so that children receive the support and treatment they need as quickly as possible.”

Tom Madders, director of campaigns at mental health charity YoungMinds, described the rise in self-har admissions as “deeply concerning”, and explained that it can be difficult for young people to get support early.

He said: “While there is higher awareness about mental health than in the past, many young people who self-harm still find it hard to reach out for help until they hit crisis point.

“For those who do seek help, it can still be really difficult to get early support. Facing a long wait of not meeting the threshold for treatment can have devastating consequences.

“With the coronavirus adding to the pressures young people face, the government must prioritise early support for young people’s mental health so that everyone can get help as soon as they need it.”

Where to seek help

Support is available for anyone who is struggling with self-harm, or has thought about self-harming, as well as for friends and family.

The NHS recommends speaking to a GP who will discuss the best options, including advice and treatment for minor injuries, as well as self-help and support groups.

If needed, a GP may discuss referring you for an assessment with a local community mental health team (CMHT), which will allow a care team to work out a treatment plan, such as a talking therapy, to help people manage their self-harm.

As well as a GP, there are a number of other listening services and support organisations that are available.

The free listening services offer confidential advice from trained volunteers, who will talk about any matters that are troubling you, no matter how difficult.

Call 116 123 to talk to Samaritans, or email: [email protected] for a reply within 24 hours.

Alternatively, text "SHOUT" to 85258 to contact the Shout Crisis Text Line, or text "YM" if you are under 19. If you are under 19, you can also call 0800 1111 to talk to Childline. The number will not appear on your phone bill.

If you prefer a webchat, these services are available at certain times:

Additionally, these organisations offer information and support for anyone who self-harms or thinks about self-harm, or their friends and family:

If you struggle with suicidal thoughts or are supporting someone else, the Staying Safe website provides information on how to make a safety plan. It includes video tutorials and online templates to guide you through the process.

You could also download the free distrACT app which provides easy, quick and discreet access to information and advice about self-harm and suicidal thoughts.