Worrying teenage trend for self-harming sparks sharp increase in calls to ChildLine
Child hospital admissions caused by ‘intentional harm with a sharp object’ up 132 per cent in a decadeCharity blames growing family problems for spike in self-harming among the young
13:30 GMT, 5 December 2012
Children are turning to self-harm as a result of deepening family problems, a leading charity said yesterday.
The number of children and teenagers who have asked for help after considering hurting themselves with knives or drugs has gone up by two thirds in a year, ChildLine said.
It blamed the wave of self-harm among youngsters on their growing family problems and said that difficulties in the home had now overtaken sexual abuse as the most common troubles faced by the young.
Growing family problems have been blamed for a spike in self-harming among the young
The charity figures came as the NHS made public hospital admissions details which show numbers of children brought to hospitals after harming themselves with knives has more than doubled in a decade.
The greatest increase in child admissions covered ‘intentional harm with a sharp object’. Numbers were up by 132 per cent in a decade.
ChildLine said approaches to the charity about self-harm had risen 68 per cent in a year, and that it had conducted 16,264 counselling sessions with teenagers worried they might hurt themselves, mainly involving teenagers aged 13 to 16. There were also 12,260 sessions with mainly 15 to 17-year-olds concerned about suicide.
It added that the age of those looking for help over self-harm is falling.
ChildLine founder Esther Rantzen. The charity has warned self harm is an increasing area of concern
Charity chief Sue Minto said: ‘Contacts about self-harm and suicide are a growing area of concern for us. It seems the pressures facing children and young people, particularly girls, are increasing at such a rate that some of them see drastic measures as the only answer to their problems.
‘We know that boys are suffering, but they are less likely to seek help and we urge them to do so. The main reason young people contacted the charity was ‘family relationships’.
ChildLine ran 39,683 sessions to try to help with family difficulties, compared with 31,599 about bullying, 17,542 about physical abuse, and 15,993 about sexual abuse.
ChildLine said: ‘There have been notable changes in the problems children contact us about since we launched in 1986. Originally sexual abuse was the main issue, but now the pendulum is swinging towards family problems, self-harm and suicide.’
Charity director Peter Liver said the growth of the internet might explain some of the explosion in self-harm contacts, because often young people feel more comfortable talking about depression online rather than over the phone.
But he added: ‘This only explains so much. There is clearly a worrying trend here.’
Most recent official figures suggest that four million children live in broken or step-families which are the most likely to go through conflict. Some 300,000 children a year see their parents break up.