New research from the U.K. finds a sharp increase in the number of adolescent girls reporting self-harm in recent years
According to new data from the CDC, teen suicides are the highest they’ve been in 40 years. Since the year 2000, teen suicides have risen by 21%, taking an average of 5 young lives each day.
In a similar vein, rates of self-harm among teen girls have sharply increased in recent years. A recent study, conducted at the University of Manchester in the U.K., found that the rate of self-harm in girls aged 13-16 spiked 68% between 2011 and 2014.
In the wake of several high-profile mass shootings, the studies are shedding new light on the fight against depression, mental illness, and bullying.
The researchers analyzed data from the general medical practice of nearly 17,000 patients, ages 10-19, who admitted engaging in self-harm at least once between 2001 and 2014.
The study was unique in that it looked at data from general medical practitioners, as opposed to emergency room visits. Looking at such a long span of time allowed the researchers to spot the disturbing trend in the final three years.
The skyrocketing rates of teen suicide and self-harm has the medical community scrambling for quick answers. Additionally, the study concluded that teen girls are drastically more likely to engage in self-harm behaviors than boys.
But the real mystery here is, why girls?
Out of 10,000 boys, they found that about 12 had engaged in self-harm. But when they looked at the numbers for girls, the researchers were shocked: 37 out of 10,000, over three times as high as the boys’.
The authors were quick to point out the limitations of their study. The spike in girls’ reported rates of self-harm may be due to a real increase in the psychological problems in adolescent girls. Or, says author Naneet Kapur, “the rise could reflect better awareness or recording of self-harm in primary care.”
Girls, she theorized, may be more willing to talk to their doctors about their emotional struggles and self-harm behaviors, while boys tend to turn to other coping methods, such as substance abuse.
The rise of digital and social media may play a part
Some experts believe that the anomaly may be explained by the increasing role that social media is playing in young people’s lives, and the ways in which the apps can be used to terrorize victims of bullying.
Last June, the suicide of 12-year-old Mallory Grossman shook the New Jersey township she grew up in. Her mother Diane has said she believes that Mallory was driven to end her life to escape near-constant harassment online from classmates.
“Teens are much more likely now than they were just five years ago or seven years ago to say that they’re anxious and depressed, and thinking about suicide,” said Dr. Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University.
Adolescent self-harm is one the most important public health concerns
For decades, the second-leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds has been suicide. The study noted that drug overdose was the most common form of self-harm, followed by cutting and self-poisoning. Other, less-common methods included suffocation, hanging, jumping, and self-burning.
Parents should be on the lookout for sudden mood changes, out-of-control behavior, changes in relationships and school performance, and any unexplained cuts, especially linear, parallel cuts, and words or letters carved into the skin.
I suggest that parents looking for a better understanding of self-harm and teen suicide should pick up a copy of Father to Son or Father to Daughter, by Harry H. Harrison, parenting expert and best-selling author. We want to be alert and watch for the signs and behaviors of bullying, stress and depression in our kids. Let me know what you think. Thaïs
Read the full article at: www.cbsnews.com