According to a report from the BBC, a fifth of 14-year-old girls in the UK have been found to have self-harmed.
A survey of 11,000 children found 22% of the girls and 9% of the boys said they had hurt themselves on purpose in the year prior to the questionnaire. Rates of self-harm were worst (46%) among those who were attracted to people of the same or both genders.
The information gathered by the Children’s Society claimed that gender stereotypes and worries about looks were contributing to unhappiness.
The self-harm statistics are included in the charity’s annual Good Childhood Report, which examines the state of children’s wellbeing in the UK.
The data on self-harm was analysed by The Children’s Society after being collected in 2015 in the Millennium Cohort Study, a continuing research project following the lives of 19,000 children born in the UK between 2000 and 2001.
More than 11,000 of these children answered a questionnaire about whether they had hurt themselves on purpose in any way in the past year. Out of the 5,624 girls who responded, 1,237 said they had self-harmed.
Self-harm is when people hurt themselves as a way of dealing with difficult feelings, painful memories or overwhelming situations and experiences.
It can include everything from punching or hitting to cutting or burning.
Based on the figures, The Children’s Society estimates that 109,000 children aged 14 may have self-harmed across the UK during the 12-month period in 2015 – 76,000 girls and 33,000 boys.
It follows NHS data released this month that showed the number of admissions to hospital of girls aged 18 and under for self-harm had almost doubled in two decades, from 7,327 in 1997 to 13,463 in 2017.
The NSPCC says common reasons for self-harming include:
- pressure at school
- emotional abuse
- having relationship problems with family or friends
According to the NSPCC, there are a number of things parents can do to help a child they suspect of self-harm. Their advice includes:
- Showing you understand
- Talking it over
- Discovering the triggers
- Building their confidence
- Showing you trust them
- Choose who you tell carefully
- Helping them find new ways to cope
Parents who suspect their child might be self-harming are advised to look for physical signs such as cuts, bruises, burns and bald patches from pulling out hair. These are commonly on the head, wrists, arms, thighs and chest.
The emotional signs are harder to spot:
- tearfulness and low motivation
- becoming withdrawn and isolated, for example wanting to be alone in their bedroom for long periods
- sudden weight loss or gain
- low self-esteem and self-blame
- drinking or taking drugs
If you are concerned about a child that you think might be self-harming, you can find online resources to help at Young Minds.