1.1% have self-injured recently, of these
40.6% cut themselves
39.8% inflicted scratching injuries on themselves*
A national survey published online in The Medical Journal of Australia has found that self-harming is more prevalent in Australia than previously thought.
The survey, carried out by researchers at the University of Queensland, questioned over 12,000 people, male and female aged between 10 and 100 years old.
The results showed that for the majority, self-harm started when they were teenagers, with the average age being 17 years old. However the oldest case for men was 44 years of age and for women, 60 years of age. Alarmingly the report also showed that people who self-harm are 11 times more likely to have suicidal tendances.
According to headspace, Australia’s National Mental Health Youth Foundation, self-harm is when someone deliberately hurts or mutilates their body without the intention to die (although it can have lethal results).
Maggie Hamilton, author of What’s Happening to our Girls? and Generation Next speaker said “while some girls who self-injure tend to cut themselves, some resort to overdosing, burning or bruising themselves. Others break their bones, especially fingers…. One of the most important messages girls need is that no one copes all the time, and that they are not alone.”
What to look for if you think someone is self-harming:
Self-cutting: cutting of any part of the body including the upper arms, wrists, or thighs
Self-poisoning: taking large amounts of prescribed or illegal drugs or other harmful substances
Self-burning: using cigarettes or lighters to burn the skin
Risky behaviour: train surfing, driving cars at high speed and illegal drug use (this is more the domain of boys who self-harm)
What causes self-harm?
In most cases when someone self-harms they are trying to relieve, control or express distressing feelings. Some young people who self-harm may not know any other way of telling people about their emotional pain. It can also be a way of communicating to people that they need support or a way of proving to themselves that they are not invisible.
Why do people deliberately harm themselves?
They have often had tough experiences or relationships including:
- Being bullied or discriminated against
- Loosing someone close, such as a parent, brother, sister or friend
- Breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend
- Being physically or sexually abused
- Having a serious illness or disability that affects the way they feel about themselves
- Having problems with school or peer groups
- Stressful and highly critical family environments
- Suffering from anxiety or depression
The Survey found that the main methods of self-injury were:
- 40.6% Cutting self
- 39.8% Scratching self
- 36.8% Hitting body on hard surface
- 33.8% Punching self
- 15% Biting self
- 15% Burning self
If you self-harm or know someone who does you can get help at the following websites:
Headspace, Reachout and Sane
Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha
Source: The Medical Journal of Australia. Reachout. headspace