NHS Choices defines self-harm as:
“Self-harm is when somebody damages or injures their body on purpose. Self-harm is not usually an attempt at committing suicide (but does include suicide), but a way of dealing with deep emotional feelings such as low self-esteem or coping with traumatic events, or situations, such as the death of a loved one, or an abusive relationship. Self-harm is not an illness, it is an expression of personal distress.”
Types of self-harm may include:
- cutting / burning the skin
- poisoning with drugs, alcohol and other chemicals
- self-harm through hanging, drowning, jumping, etc
Key Issues in Somerset
Self-harm was one of the many subjects covered in the Somerset Children and Young People Survey (SCYPS), conducted in Spring/Summer2016. In conjunction with teachers across the county, the survey was commissioned from the Schools Health Education Unit (SHEU) by the Somerset Health and Wellbeing in Learning Programme as a way of collecting robust information about young people’s lifestyles. Questions were asked only of students attending Sixth Forms or FE colleges, and just over 1,000 responded.
- One in six boys and one in three girls in this age group (17-19) said they had harmed themselves at some point in their lives; 6% had done so that term (Spring 2016, see chart below)
- Almost one in five boys and one in three girls had thought about taking their own life at some point in their lives; 5% said they have done so that term.
- Of these students, more than one in three reported they had actually attempted suicide in the past.
- In a separate question asked of Year 10 pupils, 10% of girls reported usually or always cutting or hurting themselves when they have a
problem that worried them or they are feeling stressed.
- Hospital admission rates in Somerset as a result of self-harm have been consistently above the national average
Hospital admissions as a result of self-harm in Somerset are significantly higher than the national average (see below). In 2009-12, the crude rate per 100,000 under-18 population was 163 in Somerset compared with 116 for England as a whole.
Key Issues Nationally
In 2012/13, across England, there were almost 100,000 self-harm adult inpatient hospital episodes (source: HSCIC). Just over half of these cases (54,700) dealt with by hospitals last year involved existing specialist mental health service users. A further 22,000 resulted in an mental health assessment on the day of admission or later in the year.
A third of self-harm episodes involving mental health service users related to intentional self-poisoning by prescription drugs generally used for treating conditions such as depression, epilepsy and schizophrenia.
Nationally, in contrast to rates of suicide, levels of self-harm are higher among females than men. They are particularly high amongst older teenage girls and young women in their 20s.
In 2015, the nationwide Girls' Attitudes Survey of more than 1,500 girls and young women aged 11 to 21 was commissioned by Girl Guiding. It found that:-
- Self-harming was considered the most serious health issue affecting young people.
- Since 2010, the proportion naming self-harming as a serious issue had risen from 62% (in 8th place) to 75% (in first place)
- This is in line with an increased recognition of mental illness/depression as an issue, while others such as binge drinking, STIs and obesity had fallen.