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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Charities concerned over worrying rise in self harm

This news post is about 9 years old

​Charities raise concerns over rise in people self harming

Cases of self-harm rose by a third in Scotland’s largest city, doubled in Lanarkshire and have tripled in Ayrshire since 2010, new figures have shown.

And children as young as seven have become victims of self-harm.

Mental health charities now warn these figures mask an epidemic.

A freedom of information request shows self harm cases in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have risen 32%, from 55 in 2010 to 73 last year, and the youngest person treated for self-inflicted injuries was only seven-years-old.

Lanarkshire's health board didn’t reveal ages of those treated but said their figures had almost doubled, from 63 in 2010 to 122 in 2014.

In Ayrshire, the health board recorded a 144% increase, from nine in 2010 to 22 in 2014.

Charity ChildLine Scotland said the figures mirror the data they have collected which shows an increase of 166% in cases since 2009.

ChildLine services manager Susan Dobson said it is "a growing area of concern".

These figures likely represent only a small percentage of the total number of young people in the area who self-harm - Nigel Henderson

"The reasons young children turn to these measures can be very personal. It can be linked to problems at home, at school or because children are being abused," she added. "In many cases the children are so desperate and in such distress they can see no way out."

Scottish mental health charity Penumbra has also reported an increase in the number of children who self-harm.

Chief executive Nigel Henderson said: "Penumbra provides a number of services across Scotland to support people who self-harm and all of our services have reported an increase in referrals in recent years.

"Greater awareness of the support that is available and better NHS recording methods might explain the rise reported by NHS boards in the west of Scotland.

"However, these figures likely represent only a small percentage of the total number of young people in the area who self-harm as many young people only seek help in extreme circumstances."

Some children who self-harm will suffer in silence because they fear they'll be stigmatised, according to Judith Robertson of charity See Me.

She said: "The causes of self-harm in young people are complex and young people who do self-harm need to be given proper support and care and treatment. Where this is not happening more needs to be done.

"Sometimes the fear of being judged or stigmatised can prevent young people asking for help. A lack of understanding of the causes of self-harm can also mean that young people don't get the help they need exposing them to greater risks."