The ten signs your child is self-harming – as ‘alarming’ data shows teen girls at greatest risk

THE number of teenager girls admitted to hospital for self-harm has tripled in the last decade, "alarming" data from the NHS shows.

With young women at the greatest risk, we have complied the ten warning signs to look out for before seeking help.

Experts say there are some obvious clues that could indicate your child is self-harming.

These can include them being withdrawn, sleeping or eating habits changing, tearfulness and unexplained injuries.

The latest data shows around 3,235 cases of self-harm among girls aged 13-17 were recorded at English hospitals in the year 2019/20, up from 980 in 2009/10.

Figures demonstrate that one in three self-harm admissions in the last year among all patients aged 13 to 30 was for girls in the 13-17 group.

This is up from fewer than one in five a decade earlier.

Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, said the figures underline "the worrying increase in the number of children struggling with mental health problems".

Women and girls currently account for 69 per cent of all such cases among those aged 13-30, up from 56 per cent a decade ago.

Female self-harm admissions have more than doubled in the last 10 years, from 2,950 to 6,720, according to the data.

What to look out for:

Experts say these are some of the warning signs that might suggest your child is self-harming:

  1. Withdrawal or isolation from everyday life
  2. Signs of depression such as low mood, tearfulness or a lack of motivation or interest in anything
  3. Changes in mood, eating/sleeping habits, activity
  4. Talking about self-harming or suicide
  5. Abusing drugs or alcohol
  6. Expressing feelings of failure, uselessness or loss of hope
  7. Risk taking behaviour (substance misuse, unprotected sexual acts)
  8. Signs of low self-esteem such as blaming themselves for any problems or saying they are not good enough
  9. Unexplained cuts, bruises or marks and covering up all the time, even in hot weather
  10. Being quieter than usual and lacking energy

By comparison, male cases have increased by slightly more than a quarter – a rise of 29 per cent from 2,295 to 2,955.

Teenage boys and girls now make up the most common age profile for self-harm admissions, 41 per cent, compared with just 26 per cent a decade ago.

Ms Longfield added: "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."

YOU’RE NOT ALONE

EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.

It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.

It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.

And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.

Yet it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.

That is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign.

The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.

Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You're Not Alone.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:

  • CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
  • Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
  • Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
  • Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
  • Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123

Tom Madders, director of campaigns at mental health charity YoungMinds, described the rise in self-harm admissions as "deeply concerning".

He added: "The reasons why young people self-harm are often complex, but we know that traumatic experiences at a young age – like bereavement, bullying or abuse – can have a huge impact on mental health.

"School pressure, racism, concerns about how you look and difficult relationships with family or friends can also have a significant effect."

The data does not stipulate how many admissions resulted in death.

Fears about the impact of social media on vulnerable people have increased amid cases such as that of 14-year-old schoolgirl Molly Russell, who took her own life in 2017 and was found to have viewed harmful content online.

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