Self-harm rates ‘double’ among pre-teen children

‘It's almost as though the problem is spreading down the age range somewhat,’ professor says

Samuel Osborne
Tuesday 16 February 2021 07:24 GMT
Rates of admission for self harm have doubled over the last six years
Rates of admission for self harm have doubled over the last six years (iStock/Getty Images)

An average of 10 pre-teen children are admitted to hospital for self-harm each week, it has been revealed, in an apparent doubling of rates.

Between 2019 and 2020 there were 508 recorded hospital admissions for self-injury, such as cutting oneself, within the nine-12 age group in the UK, compared to 221 between 2013-14, suggesting rates have doubled in the past six years, according to an analysis of the data from BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 programme.

“The increase in the data that you've looked at is in keeping with what we're finding from our research databases,” Keith Hawton CBE, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Oxford and consultant psychiatrist at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, told BBC File on 4.

Prof Hawton, who is also principal investigator of the multicentre study of self-harm in England, said: “It's almost as though the problem is spreading down the age range somewhat. And I do think it is a concerning problem. And I do think it's important that it's recognised that self-harm can occur in relatively young children, which many people are surprised by.

“I think it indicates that mental health issues are perhaps increasing in this very young age range.”

Also commenting on the findings, Rosamund McNeil, assistant general secretary of the National Education Union said: “This new data analysis on the trends in self-harm is deeply troubling.

“We know that the coronavirus pandemic has increased mental health difficulties amongst many children and young people, particularly children in poverty, Black children and those with pre-existing mental health conditions. Rising rates of self-harm could now be exacerbated.”

BBC File on 4’s analysis combined data on hospital admissions for self-harm over the past 10 years, broken down by age, and was cross referenced with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) population data.

File on 4’s programme, ‘Surviving Self-Harm’, includes further analysis from Prof Hawton and will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 8pm on Tuesday 16 February and repeated at 5pm on Sunday 21 February.

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