Social Media and School Work Driving Growing Self-Harm Problem Among Teenage Girls

Maurice Richmond
By Maurice Richmond,
updated on Aug 6, 2018

Social Media and School Work Driving Growing Self-Harm Problem Among Teenage Girls

Concerns have been raised as hospitals are treating almost twice as many girls for self-harm, compared with 20 years ago

It has prompted charities to speak out and call for greater action, with hospitals under increasing pressure and children facing crisis point.

Figures from the NHS admissions for girls nationwide who self-harmed has rocketed up to 13,463 last year, compared with 7,327 in 1997. Alarmingly, the number of girls treated for attempting an overdose rose from 249 in 1997 to 2,736 last year.

Admissions of boys for self-harm saw a slight increase from 2,236 in 1997 to 2,332 last year. The number of boys attempting an overdose rose from 152 in 1997 to 839 last year.

Speaking to The Times, Jon Goldin, vice-chairman of the child and adolescent faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, pinpointed pressure points facing children today.

He said: "I think there are a range of factors putting pressure on young children — academic pressures, exam pressures, social media . . . with fear of missing out and comparing yourself unfavourably to images you see online.

"If you look at social media, my hunch is that girls are probably more sensitive to some of those factors than boys."

The NSPCC revealed that it provided 15,376 counselling sessions about self-harm last year, equivalent to 42 per day.

A spokeswoman said: "These heartbreaking figures are sadly unsurprising. We know from contacts to Childline that many children are being driven to self-harm as a way of dealing with the pressures and demands of modern-day life. Young people are crying out for help and more needs to be done to prevent them from reaching crisis point.

"A key step in this process is ensuring every child and young person feels confident they will be supported when they do speak up so they don't end up trapped in a vicious cycle where they believe hurting themselves is the only solution. We always encourage young people who have a worry to speak to a trusted adult but if they feel they can’t, then they should contact Childline, who are available 24/7."

With teenagers across the country awaiting their GCSE and A-Level exam results, Emma Thomas, chief executive of YoungMinds, outlined the impact of exam pressure and social media.

She said: "The education system now places a greater emphasis than ever on exam results, while the rise of social media can make problems like bullying or body image issues more intense than they were in the past," she said.

The government said in a green paper released last month that about 850,000 children and young people had a diagnosable mental health condition.

The Department of Health and Social Care responded to the figures for hospital admissions, claiming they did not represent the number of patients treated, as some were admitted more than once within the period. The figures also now include those treated at private hospitals.

A spokesman said: "Making sure children and young people have the right mental health care when they need it is vital. That's why we are investing an extra £300 million to provide more help in schools, which will include trained staff to provide faster support to children.

"But we want to go further — we've extended our pilot scheme to deliver training in 20 more areas of the country this year to improve links between 1,200 schools and their mental health services, and as part of our long-term plan for the NHS we will announce more on how we will improve mental health later this year."

If yourself or a loved one need support for your mental health, then you can find confidential help in your area by visiting Counselling Directory.

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