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Self-harm cases among teenage girls triple in decade, ‘alarming’ figures suggest

Analysis of NHS Digital data by the PA news agency suggests self-harm admissions to hospitals in England among 13-30-year-olds has almost doubled.

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Girls aged 13-17 accounted for a large proportion of self-harm admissions (PA)

Girls aged 13-17 accounted for a large proportion of self-harm admissions (PA)

Girls aged 13-17 accounted for a large proportion of self-harm admissions (PA)

Self-harm admissions to hospital in England among teenage girls have more than tripled in the last decade, analysis of “alarming” NHS data has suggested.

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 obtained and analysed by the PA news agency also signal that one in three (33%) 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 (19%) a decade earlier.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

PA

(PA Graphics)

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”.

Latest data released by NHS Digital shows there were around 9,675 self-harm admissions to English hospitals for patients aged 13 to 30 in 2019/20, a rise of 84% from 5,245 in the year 2009/10.

The figures, which are rounded by the NHS to the nearest five per region and age range, indicate that total self-harm admissions among young people in England has risen in eight out of the 10 years from 2009/10.

The number of self-harm admissions involving females outweighs those involving males every year since 2009/10, with the percentage widening every year bar one since.

It shows females currently account for two-thirds (69%) of all such cases among those aged 13-30, up from 56% 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.

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

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

Back then, the most common age group admitted to hospital with such self-inflicted injuries were those in the 18-22 category (32%), followed by those aged 23-27 (27%).

Responding to the figures, Ms Longfield said: “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.

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Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England , described the self-harm figures as ‘alarming’ (Russell Sach/PA)

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England , described the self-harm figures as ‘alarming’ (Russell Sach/PA)

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Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England , described the self-harm figures as ‘alarming’ (Russell Sach/PA)

“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.”

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.

“While there is higher awareness about mental health than in the past, many young people who self-harm still find it hard to reach out for help until they hit crisis point.

“For those who do seek help, it can still be really difficult to get early support. Facing a long wait or not meeting the threshold for treatment can have devastating consequences.

“With the coronavirus adding to the pressures young people face, the Government must prioritise early support for young people’s mental health so that everyone can get help as soon as they need it.”

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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