Self-harm in children and adolescents

1 Feb

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Self-harm is any act of self-poisoning or self-injury whether intentional or not. Self-harm is the strongest risk factor for possible future suicide, with suicide being the second most common cause of death before the age of 25 worldwide.

In recent years, there has been a rise in suicide rates in children and adolescents, as well as a marked increase in psychological distress. The purpose of this study was to identify how the rates of self-harm have changed, and how these changes compare in different genders, as well as among different age groups. The Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) database was used to identify 16,912 records of children or adolescents presenting to their GP after self-harming between 2001 and 2014. Researchers then looked at what proportion had been referred to mental health services and what drugs, if any, were prescribed in the 12 months following the self-harm.

The most notable trends were:

  • A 68% increase in incidence of self-harm in girls aged 13-16
  • Those who lived in socially deprived areas were 23% less likely to be referred in the 12 months following self-harm
  • Children and adolescents who self-harmed were at increased risk:
    • 9 times more likely to die of unnatural causes
    • 17 times more likely to die by suicide
    • 34 times more likely to die through alcohol or drug poisoning.

 Read more in the full paper in BMJ, or the plain English publication summary.

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