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Surge in boys treated for self-harm

The number of cases of young boys being admitted to hospital for self-harming is at a five-year high, new figures reveal.

Experts warned of an "epidemic of self-harm" and said bullying, stress at school and sexual pressure is driving young people to the desperate act.

Admissions of boys aged 10 to 14 have soared by 30% over the past five years, from 454 in 2009 to 2010 to 659 in 2013 to 2014.

The number of young boys admitted to hospital for self-harming has increased nearly every year over the past five years, according to statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

And the number of cases of girls aged 10 to 14 self-harming has also increased dramatically, nearly doubling from 3,090 in 2009 to 2010 to 5,955 in 2013 to 2014.

Lucie Russell, director of campaigns at YoungMinds, said: "These figures are sadly just the tip of the iceberg as many young people will be suffering in silence and not getting medical attention or support. For too long self-harm has been dismissed as something that is just an issue for teenage girls.

"We need to recognise that this is an issue for boys as well.

"Boys may often self-harm differently to girls, they may bang their heads or punch walls, and often this is seen as just aggressive behaviour rather than self-harm.

"Both boys and girls are under a lot of pressure and we need to make sure help and support is available for both them and their families as soon as they need it."

She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that calls to their hotline had "gone through the roof over the last few years" as children struggle to cope with bullying, stress at school and sexual pressure.

She said: "There is a lot of family breakdown, there are addiction issues in families, poverty issues, there is a lot of stress at school in terms of having to perform and pass exams, there's bullying, 24/7 online culture, sexual pressures, issues around body image and, really, in terms of the future, what are young people going to do in the future?

"All those issues affect boys too."

Self-harm can include cutting, burning and intentional self-poisoning.

The HSCIC said the figures related to the number of admissions, rather than individual patients, and could include individuals who have gone to hospital many times.

They also stressed that the statistics for 2013 to 2014 were provisional.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said: "At Sane we have been warning of an epidemic of self-harm for some years. What is distressing is not only the increasing numbers of children involved, but the worsening extent of the injuries that they inflict on themselves."

She welcomed additional money for mental health units at hospitals, but warned that too often children are being treated unsympathetically when they visit for treatment or discharged without a follow-up appointment.

She added: "Both young boys and girls, with nearly always hidden and often shocking wounds, may be treated with little compassion 'because they have done it to themselves'. Some even report treatment without anaesthetic."

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said: "Self-harm is a sign of serious emotional distress and it is crucial that young people get the help they need.

"I've created a taskforce to advise on improvements to care, we are investing £150 million to help people with eating disorders and £30 million in mental health support in A&E."

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