There has been a steep rise in reports of self-harm among girls aged 13 to 16, according to a study of data from GP practices across the UK and the NSPCC charity said the figures were ‘heart-breaking’, adding that it had held more than 15,000 counselling sessions about self-harm last year.
The BMJ study, which looked at figures from 2011-2014, said GPs could be getting better at picking up self-harm but it was likely that rising stress and psychological problems in young people were also behind the trend.
Self-harm is seen as the biggest risk factor for subsequent suicide, which is now the second most common cause of death in the under-25s worldwide.
The NSPCC said giving children support early could be a matter of life or death, the BBC reported. Since 2001, girls have had much higher rates of self-harm than boys – 37.4 per 10,000 compared with 12.3 in boys.
Says the NSPCC: “Self-harm can often be an expression of a deeper problem, which is why early intervention services to support these children are vital. Without this, the consequences really can be a matter of life or death.”
The study’s researchers, from the University of Manchester, looked at data for nearly 17,000 patients from more than 600 GP practices.
Tom Madders, director of campaigns at YoungMinds, said school stress, body-image issues, the pressure created by social media and difficult experiences in childhood could all have an impact on the mental health of teenage girls.
The National Council for Hypnotherapy, the UK’s largest professional organisation for clinical hypnotherapy with more than 1,800 qualified therapists on its books, is well-placed to help young people deal with problems like low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and weight change which, says the NSPCC, are signs of possible self-harming.
Says the NCH: “We live in a society where great demands and responsibilities are placed on us. Today, about one in seven people are suffering from stress or anxiety at any one time in the UK. And while some people manage, more and more people are showing signs of over-anxiety, which leads to stress, which can make a significant impact on the quality of life and wellbeing.”
Nav Kapur, study author and professor of psychiatry and population health at the University of Manchester, said parents and young people should not be unduly alarmed by the findings.
“We know that for many young people things get better and they no longer hurt themselves as adults. But of course we must take self-harm seriously; it’s important to understand its underlying causes.”
Talking about issues like low self-esteem and anxiety can make the problem seem less and, adds the NCH, if the self-harmer is ready to explore ways of freeing themselves and living a fulfilled and happy life, sessions with a hypnotherapist can change things.
“After sessions with a hypnotherapist you may feel more confident; more relaxed in situations that have previously challenged you,” says the NCH. “Hypnotherapy unlocks the potential you have to break free of negative thought patterns, and to react more positively and more confidently to situations in your life that may have previously made you anxious.”
The NSPCC says self-harm is not always a suicide indication or attempt or a cry for attention. It is often a way for young people to release overwhelming emotions. It is a way of coping but it should be taken seriously.
If you are self-harming or know someone who is, contact an NCH hypnotherapist near you by clicking here.