Northern Ireland

One in ten 16-year-olds surveyed say they have considered self-harming

Woman with her head in her hands (picture posed by model) Image copyright PA
Image caption Almost a third of those questioned in the YLT survey had experienced serious personal, emotional or mental health problems

One in ten 16-year-olds in Northern Ireland who took part in a new study have said they have considered self-harming or taking an overdose.

The annual Young Life and Times (YLT) survey was carried out by Queen's and the University of Ulster.

It also revealed that almost a third of those questioned had experienced serious personal, emotional or mental health problems.

Researchers interviewed 1,367 16-year-olds.

Dr Dirk Schubotz from the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen's University and YLT director, said: "These findings from the YLT survey show that despite the investment in mental health services in Northern Ireland, compared to five years ago, there has been virtually no change with regard to young people's experiences of stress and mental health problems.


"It is particularly significant to note that still only a small minority of 16-year-olds seek professional help when experiencing serious emotional health problems.

"Although mental health campaigns have for some time attempted to de-stigmatise mental ill-health, by far the most likely reason why young people self-harm remains self-punishment.

"This suggests that young people with mental health problems keep blaming themselves for these, rather than appreciating external stressors such as pressures arising from school work or financial difficulties."

The key findings of the 2013 survey on 16-year-olds' mental health include:

  • 28% of 16-year-olds said that they had experienced serious personal, emotional or mental health problems at some point in the past year.
  • Just over one third of these respondents had sought professional help for these problems.
  • 13% of respondents said that they had, at some point in the past, seriously thought about taking an overdose or harming themselves, and 6% had thought about this in the past month.
  • 13% of respondents said they had self-harmed - 5% had done so once and 8% more than once. The most likely reason (60%) given by these young people for doing this was that they 'wanted to punish themselves'.

The survey was undertaken by ARK on behalf of the universities.

The research aims to give an insight into the lives of 16-year-olds across Northern Ireland, by addressing a range of key issues.

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