Child self-harm hospital cases up 51% in south east

Anxious teenage girl Image copyright Thinkstock

Hospital admissions of children for self-harming have risen 51% in three years in south east England, according to NHS data.

The NSPCC has described the trend as "really worrying" and called for earlier support for vulnerable children.

Four-fifths of cases involve girls.

NHS Digital figures obtained by BBC South East indicate 2,198 admissions of 11 - 18 year-olds at hospitals in Surrey, Sussex and Kent in 2015-16.

They rose from 1,453 in 2012-13 to 1,842 in 2013-14 and 1,857 in 2014-15.

Olivia Nathan from Billingshurst, West Sussex was 13 when she started cutting herself at boarding school.

"It was a way of preventing suicidal thoughts and not feeling numb, a type of self-punishment," she said.

"I had low self-esteem at the time, even though it had nothing to do with me."

Image copyright Jane Nathan
Image caption Olivia Nathan's mother Jane set up a clinic in Guildford to help other young people with mental health problems

Lisa McCrindle, head of policy at the NSPCC, said dealing with modern life can be "very complicated and challenging" for young people.

"It can be anything: the internet, cyber-bullying, doing really well at school, you've got to get a good job and be socially vibrant.

"There's a lot of pressures hitting them," she added.

How to help a child who is self-harming

  • Listen, understand and show empathy
  • Talk it over and try to work how what is making them self-harm
  • Build up their confidence and show they can trust you
  • Help them find new ways to cope

Children and young people can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or on their website.

An early intervention scheme, run by charity Addaction as a pilot in Canterbury, is to be expanded across schools in Kent.

Addaction manager Rick Bradley said there had been a significant reduction in self-harming.

"Many stopped doing it and addressed other stuff happening at home, looking at underlying factors," he said.

The Department of Health said it was spending £1.4bn to transform services in every area.

In a statement it said: "We want children with mental health problems to get the help they need.

"We are also strengthening the links between schools and mental health services, and looking at how to improve services for self-harm in the reinvigorated suicide prevention strategy, to be published soon."

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