Hidden teen self-harm epidemic as third of young Brits admit hurting themselves

Over a third of young people say they have self-harmed in a “shocking” new survey which reveals the disturbing epidemic sweeping Britain’s youth.

In a YouGov poll of over 2,000 16 to 25-year-olds, 34% admitted hurting themselves in a range of ways including cutting, poisoning and burning.

And a third of those youngsters did so in the past 12 months.

Recent NHS figures relating to the same age group had revealed that just one in ten self-harmed.

The latest research, commissioned by youth support charity The Mix UK, also reveals a worrying lack of understanding and support for youngsters.

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Some 41% of those who self-harmed in the past year had not accessed any support.

Of those who visited a GP, hospital or healthcare professional, 30% said it was unhelpful.

Zoe Bailie, director of brand and development at The Mix UK, said: “This is a benchmark piece of research that has blown other figures out of the water.

The likelihood as a parent is your child may self-harm, or will have a friend who does.”

Natasha Devon, a former government mental health tsar, added: “These figures are shocking and show a third of our young people are in emotional distress.

The Government needs to see this statistic as a plea for help from young people and ask what caused it.”

While self-harm is not automatically linked to suicidal thoughts, Ms Devon explained in some cases it can be without the correct support.

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She said: “Now, self harm has to be severe enough to require hospitalisation for urgent action to be taken.

“It used to be if you were in enough distress to hurt yourself you’d get an appointment with the NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

“Now, so many parents say to me it seems you have to kill yourself to be taken seriously. Demand is so high they have to increase the thresholds.

One teacher said to me, ‘Girls learn how severely they need to self-harm to guarantee an overnight hospital stay, but not die’. We want to get people way before they get to that point.”

The Mix, which will launch Self-Harm Awareness Day on Sunday, helps over 2.5 million young people a year with a range of issues, mainly across moderated digital platforms.

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Comments left anonymously on its website show claims of misunderstanding and stigma within the NHS around self-injury, with some healthcare professionals seeing it as attention seeking.

One youngster said a GP told her girls who self-harm are “bad girls”.

Another wrote: “I’ve insisted for help and received nothing or been told I wasn’t severe enough for support because I didn’t have cuts on my throat or wrists that were current or bleeding.”

When The Mix put the YouGov questions on its site, visited by young people already seeking support, it found an even higher proportion of respondents – 74% – admitted to self-harm.

Ms Baillie put the numbers down to a range of factors: “People are talking about it more but young people face a lot of pressure. Exam stress is huge.

Concern about the future. Potential bullying. Pressures on social media.”

The charity is calling for specialist training for health professionals and asking for young people to be directed to its website, which offers specialist support through peers, volunteers and professionals, without long waits.

Ms Bailie said: “This is widespread, it affects everybody. All backgrounds.”

The NHS said it is seeing more kids and young people than ever – 53,000 more last year than the previous one – and is ramping up early support in the community, schools and colleges.

It added: “We also need social media firms, employers and others to step up and ask what more they can do.”

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