A BMJ report released on 19/10/17 indicates that self-harm is more widespread in teenage girls than boys. It points to a steep rise in self-harm reported to GPs in girls aged between 13-16 years from 2011 to 2014, compared with boys of the same age. It also hjghlights that fewer mental health service referrals are made in socially deprived areas, despite the fact that self-harm rates are higher.
Naomi Salisbury, Director of Self injury Support, responds:
Figures match our organisational experience
These figures are not surprising and match our own figures which show that 60% of the young women who contact us for support are under 16, with the youngest contacts being 8/9 year olds. We have also noticed a considerable increase in requests from schools for information and support related to cuts in school counselling and wellbeing services.
Self harm is a symptom, now more than ever, we need to examine the causes
It is important to focus on the fact that self-harm is a symptom of distress and stressful circumstances, and without tackling the underlying causes of self-harm, nothing will change. It is easy to focus on ‘getting people to stop self-harming’ without thinking about the experiences they have had that have led them to use self-harm. This requires recognition of the societal pressures young women are under, as well as the scale of sexual violence and other abuse in our society. Large scale, long term investment in both mental health and wellbeing support and specialised training for health and care staff can no longer be side lined if we want things to change for the future.
We need concrete action, not outrage
Research with similar findings about self-harm in the UK has been published frequently in the past few years, yet nothing changes. Research is met with concern at the time, but we have seen no concrete action to invest in the emotional wellbeing of young people, with cuts to mental health and other support services continuing. This is an issue which cannot be solved by simply offering Mental Health First Aid training.
Self-harm doesn’t only affect young people
Without early intervention and support, young people who self-harm grow up and become adults who self-harm. We support many women who were not given that support when they were younger, and are often marginalised and dismissed for continuing to use self-harm. Everyone who uses self-harm deserves compassionate support, and to be valued as a human being doing the best with the hand they have been dealt.
Simply telling people to stop is counterproductive
We know from decades of experience and feedback from women who use our services, that simply telling people to stop using self-harm is unhelpful for a number of reasons. It dismisses the distress the person is expressing, it ignores the underlying issues and it can alienate people from seeking support in future. For useful responses to self-harm click here
The right support does make a difference
The most recent analysis from 2014-2017 of text and email support service shows some very positive changes. Each year on TESS there has been an increase in the number of young women who say they self-harm less frequently (Y1 28%, Y2 37%, Y3 45%). There has also been an increase in those who do it less severely (Y1 18%, Y2 16%, Y3 33%). We would not expect to see high percentages of young women who stop self-harming but we are so pleased that we have seen progress in this. In our annual surveys we have seen an increase in young women stopping self-harm. (Y1 9%. Y2 6%, Y3 19%).
For more information about our support services and self help materials click here
Further information for journalists:
About Self injury Support
Self injury Support is a UK-wide charity offering direct support to women and girls who use self-harm and specialist training, information and consultancy for all.
To discuss this item further please contact Naomi Salisbury, Director on 0117 927 9600