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Key findings 5. Self-harm

Effective early help may reduce the number of those children and young people at risk.

South Gloucestershire’s Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2013-16

Secondary pupils and year 12 young people were asked is they had ever self-harmed. The 16.3% (357) who responded yes were then asked a series of questions about their self-harm, the first of which was how often they had self-harmed. 11% (36) replied “never” to this question – this means that the actual proportion of pupils who have self-harmed is actually 14.6% (357 minus the 36 “Nevers” = 321 divided by the number of pupils who responded 2,195).

A further 51.1% (163) pupils said they had self-harmed once or twice. In our experience these tend to be young people who have self-harmed as part of a game or challenge/dare and most do not go onto serious self-harm or related mental issues. We (Foster and Brown Research) call this group of young people “Experimental” self-harmers and do not include them in the analysis of habitual self-harmers. We are currently working with Professor Hawton[1] (Oxford University) and his team (who are central government advisors in this field) and he supports our approach.

Therefore the number of habitual self-harmers that we are concerned with in this study is actually 7.2% (158) – that is our 321 actual self-harmers minus 163 experimental self-harmers = 158 regular self-harmers. It is very important that this 7% figure is quoted when reporting self-harm and not the initial 16% which could be misleading. 7% is in line with national figures (also based on regular self-harm). Experimental self-harmers should be reported as a separate figure.

5.1.  Considering the regular self-harmers – these can be subdivided into habitual self-harmers – those who self-harm sometimes – e.g. monthly (38 pupils, 1.7%) and chronic self-harmers those who self-harm weekly or more (82 pupils, 3.7%).

Fig.35

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5.2.  In line with national trends and other local studies (OPS and in and around Bristol) the incidence of regular self-harm is about 3 times more prevalent in girls than in boys. Those boys who have self-harmed are more likely to have experimented than girls, and girls are more likely to be chronic self-harmers than boys.

Fig.36

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5.3.  There are also some gender differences in the methods they use to self-harm – girls favouring cutting in the main and boys also using more physical means (e.g. punching walls etc.). This again, backs up data from the Bristol study.

Fig.37

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5.4.  Just over half of self-harmers (51%, n=336) have told someone about their self-harm and 10% of all self-harmers said they have had medical treatment for their injury

5.5.  A third (33%) of all self-harmers reported that they are still self-harming

5.6.  Nearly half (49%) of young people who self-harmed felt they had no help or not enough help in knowing how to build good relationships with people close to them compared to 28% of young people who do not self-harm.

5.7.  Over half (55%) of young people who self-harmed felt they had no help or not enough help in handling their feelings to them compared to 27% of young people who do not self-harm.

5.8.  18% of pupils, (20% of year 8’s and 10’s and 11% of Year 12’s) felt they needed more knowledge about self-harming.

 [1] Professor Hawton is considered a world expert in this field and has written numerous papers and books, for example K Hawton & K Rodham, By their own hand. Deliberate Sell-harm and Suicidal ideas in Adolescents. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 2008