High rates of teen self-harm raise concern

Sarah Wiedersehn
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Research has uncovered worrying rates of self harm and suicidal behaviour among Australian teenagers.

Data released from The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children shows 10 per cent of 14-15 year-olds reported self harm in the previous 12 months and five per cent had attempted suicide.

Of the more than 3000 teens involved in the study, girls were at greatest risk of these concerning behaviours compared to boys.

More than a quarter of girls in the study said they had thoughts of self harm and 15 per cent had acted upon those thoughts, compared to eight per cent of boys.

This might have involved cutting or taking an overdose.

Similar results were found regarding suicide-related behaviour.

The study also examined the factors linked to self-harm and found gay and bisexual teens were at greater risk.

Another factor was involvement in crime, says Dr Galina Daraganova from the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Importantly, the data reaffirmed the link between self-harm and suicide attempts, says Dr Darangonova.

“Even though not every teenager who engages in self-harm proceeds with a suicide attempt, self- harm is a risk factor,” she said.

“Of those who had attempted suicide, almost two-thirds (63 per cent) had self-harmed.

Self-harm is considered a deliberate act of hurting oneself physically as a way of releasing painful emotions or communicating personal distress to others, according to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists

The majority of young people who engage in self-harming behaviours hide their injuries and may never seek help.

AIFS Director Anne Hollonds says the findings shine a spotlight on this serious and “hidden” problem.

Ms Hollonds wants to see greater community education and prevention strategies on the issue, which she says is a “whole-of-community responsibility”.

“The majority of incidents do not come to the attention of health services or parents and friends,” she said.

“Health services and schools need to be aware of the risk factors and support parents and friends to know how best to respond if they are concerned about a young person,” she said.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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