Self-harm among young people in the UK has increased at an alarming rate over the last decade.
New NHS figures obtained by The Guardian reveal a large rise in under-18s being admitted to hospital after poisoning, cutting or hanging themselves, with the largest increase among girls, though there are major rises among boys too.
The level of self-poisoning among girls under 18 has increased by 42% from 9,741 in 2005-06 to 13,853 today. Meanwhile the number of cuttings among girls has increased 385% from 600 to 2,311.
Experts say that this is most likely due to young people "experiencing serious psychological distress because they are under unprecedented social pressures".
It’s clearly distressing that more young people are causing harm to themselves and we know that the problems facing children are growing. In common with most experts, we believe this is due to increasing stress and social pressure on young people, including to succeed at school, and emerging problems with body image leading to eating disorders and self-harm. We recognise that vital care for children and young people’s mental health is an area where more work needs to be done.Dr Jackie Cornish, NHS England’s National Clinical Director For Children, Young People And Transition To Adulthood.
These statistics are, of course, distressing and shocking.
But, perhaps even more worrying, a survey by Childline found that the majority of self-harmers will not seek help or advice from a parent, doctor or teacher and instead turn to the internet where they can often find misinformation or even encouragement to continue.
It's no secret that social media has created a great deal of isolation and perhaps the pressure to present a constantly happy selfie face can bring about feelings of depression and lead to self-harm. It is perhaps also fair to say that online advice has been somewhat lacking in this area and that it is a topic we need to make an effort to talk about more in order to help each other. Many musicians and actors have been open about their struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts, providing communities to fans who have suffered also. Perhaps, now that we've had the wake up call of these statistics, we can open up theses communities and conversations to allow all young people struggling to find the help they need.