One in four 14-year-old girls self-harm, says Children's Society

RCPCH's Dr Max Davie responds, saying a joined up approach to mental health is needed.

Nearly a quarter of girls aged 14 (22%) said they had self-harmed in just a year according to a new report by The Children’s Society.

One in six (16%) of more than 11,000 children surveyed reported self-harming at this age, including nearly one in 10 boys (9%).

The self-harm statistics follow new analysis included in the charity’s annual Good Childhood Report, which examines the state of children’s wellbeing in the UK. The report looks at the reasons behind the unhappiness which increases the risk of children self-harming.

Key findings include:

  • There is a significant decrease in happiness with life as a whole between 2010 and 2016 for children aged 11-15.
  • Living as a household with lower income is strongly related to emotional and behavioural difficulties, and children from lower-income households have a higher than average risk of self-harming.
  • For both genders, family is the most important aspect influencing wellbeing.
  • If children feel supported by people around them, they retain a more positive view of themselves and are able to build an identity they feel comfortable with.
  • At age 14, nearly one in four girls have self-harmed.

Responding to The Children’s Society’s annual Good Childhood Report, Dr Max Davie, Officer for Health Promotion for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said:

“Mental health is one of the biggest health epidemics of our time and is strongly linked to social disadvantage. These latest figures further emphasise this and highlight just how urgent the need for appropriate action is.

"We know that poor mental health can lead to poor employment prospects and an increased risk of drug and alcohol use, so it is important that support is fully inclusive, joined up and offered to children and young people early to give them the best possible chance in later life. The school-based pilot schemes recently announced by the Government form part of that ‘appropriate action,’ but to ensure the best possible outcomes, several teams including primary care, local authority and child health services must collaborate to support all children no matter how they enter the mental health system.

"The Government’s upcoming 10-year-plan provides great opportunity for this and must include appropriate support for children with long-term conditions and special educational needs because as this report points out, wellbeing for these groups is significantly lower than others. Education around issues like appearance, gender stereotypes and sexuality is also desperately needed and should be included in the new Relationships and Sex Education curriculum. This country’s mental health crisis is not going to go away overnight but with appropriate action from Government, there is hope that fewer children will have mental health worries and be happier with their life as a result.”