Young women and girls are being hospitalised for self-harm at four times the rate of boys, a decade-long study has found.
- More than 18,000 kids and teens hospitalised for self-harm in 10 years
- Researchers say high rate of self-harm “just the tip of the iceberg”
- Girls are four times more likely to self-harm than boys, report finds
In the largest Australian study of intentional child-injury hospitalisations, from July 2001 to June 2012 there were 18,223 instances of children aged six to 16 admitted to hospital for self-harm.
Lead author Rebecca Mitchell from Macquarie University’s Australian Institute of Health Innovation found young women had the highest rate of hospital admissions due to self-harm.
“The female self-harm hospitalisation rate was four times higher than that of males,” she said.
“The self-harm hospitalisations represent just the tip of the self-harm iceberg … as many children who self-harm do not seek treatment from hospital services.”
Over 10 years, 66 children and teens died within 30 days of being admitted to hospital, with a further 50 deaths attributed to an underlying cause of self-harm.
“Common risk factors … include exposure to self-harm by friends and family members, substance abuse, along with mental health conditions such as depression,” the authors wrote.
Experts found most kids did not seek help for the problems they were having before self-harming.
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“This suggests a need to increase awareness amongst parents, health professionals and those who work with children such as teachers,” the report said.
The report found the vast majority of boys who are admitted to hospital are victims of assault — either by school mates or family members.
However, the rate of boys harming themselves has increased by 2.5 per cent a year over a decade.
“Anyone who is thinking of harming themselves, they need to start talking to friends, to family, to their parents, even health professionals,” Ms Mitchell said.
“We’re not doing enough in the area of mental health support for children. We need to do better.”
Self-harming children and teens were more likely to be from urban areas and a lower socio-economic background.
Ms Mitchell said a national strategy to prevent injuries, including self-harm, in Australian children was needed.
“Injury prevention has been a priority area in Australia for 30 years, and the development and resourcing of a national multi-sectoral injury prevention strategy is long overdue,” she said.
“The last national injury prevention strategy expired in 2014.”
The research has been published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.