Self-Injury Awareness Day on 1st March aims to raise awareness about self-injury and harm. It’s an international campaign held annually on the same day for the last sixteen years. Encouraging understanding and empathy, the day is ultimately about reducing the rising numbers of people who suffer, often in silence.

 

What is self-injury or self-harm?

Self-harm is when a person injures their body intentionally. They often try to conceal this behaviour from others so it can be difficult for family and friends to realise what is happening. There are various ways people harm themselves on purpose – the most common methods include:

  • cutting their skin
  • poisoning themselves with prescription drugs or chemicals – in recent years a third of self-harm episodes involving health and social care services related to intentional self-poisoning by prescription drugs generally used for treating conditions such as depression, epilepsy and schizophrenia. (1)
  • abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • eating disorders included anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.

 

Self-injury or self-harm is thought to be a way of coping with overwhelming feelings or emotional distress. Suffers may intend to punish themselves or to relieve unendurable tension. This distressing behaviour can also be a cry for help and encompass mental problems. Sadly, many people who self-harm have suicidal feelings. It is estimated that over half of those who die from suicide have a history of self-harm. (2)

 

While self-harming behaviour has been recognised for a while, many are now additionally trying to understand the effect of increased use of social media. Some already believe that this is having a negative impact on the mental health of many users and especially that of young people.

 

How prevalent is self-injury or self-harm?

Self-harm can be difficult to measure because it often remains unreported or it may not be recorded as such. However, records do show significant increases in hospital admissions in the UK in previous years. Found across all age groups, self-harm is especially prevalent amongst young people who can find it difficult to cope.

  • In 2016-17, 111,406 people English NHS Accident & Emergency Departments had a diagnosis of deliberate self-harm – that’s 201.6 per 100,000 of the population. (3)

  • The proportion of the population who report having self-harmed has increased from 2 per cent of 16 to 74 year olds in 2000 to 4 per cent in 2007, and 6 per cent in 2014. This increase is evident in both men and women and across age-groups. (4)

  • Nearly 19,000 young people admitted to hospital after harming themselves in 2015 - that’s a 14 per cent rise over three years. (5)

  • The number of girls who needed hospital treatment due to poisoning accounted for 88% of self-harm admissions in children aged under 18, an increase by 42% from 2005-06 to 2014-15, 9,741 to 13,853. (6)

 

Clearly a better understanding is needed of the apparent increase in cases of self-harm overall, especially amongst teenage girls, in addition to initiatives to tackle this serious problem. Self-Injury Awareness Day is part of a much-needed drive to increase awareness at a time of pressurised health services.  Press reports have highlighted how self-harm is now said to rising amongst the very young but that referrals to mental health professionals are being routinely rejected. (7)

 

At Broadway treatment centre we are here to help people overcome a range of harmful behaviours including self-injury or self-harm.  See our booklet used in schools with young people, “Understanding and Recovering from Self-Harm,” for more useful information and advice or visit our website to see what we do.

 

Sources:

  1. Mental Health Bulletin, Annual Report from MHMDS Returns, England - 2012-13. NHS Digital. Nov 2013
  2. Self-harm. NHS choices. Accessed Feb 2018.
  3. Hospital Episode Statistics (HES), NHS Digital http://content.digital.nhs.uk/hes
  4. Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey: Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, England, 2014. NHS Digital. Sept 2016
  5. Left in the Dark: Children and Young People’s Mental Health. Local Government Association, January 2018.
  6. Case for Change:  Self-harm in Children and Young People. Public Health Institute, Liverpool John Moores University. Jan 2018
  7. Children as young as three are self-harming, say teachers. The Guardian. 23 Jan 2018