Adolescent Self Harming (September 2020)

IT WAS ONLY last August that the ABC reported Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) data showed a thirty three percent increase in the number of children presenting at hospitals in Victoria due to self-harm, compared to the same period last year.


The DHHS statistics also demonstrated an increase of over nine percent across all ages.


These figures are equally supported by similar statistics offered by Lifeline who have received twenty five percent more calls than this time last year.


It is very concerning our young population is struggling so much through COVID-19 that some are resorting to the extreme measures of self-harm.


Self-harm ranges from cutting, burning or hitting oneself to overdosing, binge eating or starvation or repeatedly putting oneself in danger.


In extreme cases, self-harm can result in death, though generally people who self-harm, do not intend to take their own life.


While self-harm does not always mean suicide, it can be a predictor of suicide if not taken seriously, especially if there are repeated episodes.


The Victorian Suicide Prevention framework 2016-2025 was set up with a goal to halve Victoria’s suicide rate by 2025.


Details of their plan can be found on the Health.vic website.


ONE IN FIVE Australians has a mental illness or disorder, seventy five percent of mental health issues begin before the age of twenty five, which means nearly half of the population will experience some form of mental health problem in their lifetime.


These are scary numbers, and they double where LGBTI people are concerned.


COVID-19 has certainly added to the stress and anxiety people are feeling, and the restrictions in Victoria have been extreme to live under, despite the promise of a return to a more normal life if the number of cases keep dropping.


I was reading some of the posts on beyondblue.org.au and it strikes me that there are many people out there in our society requiring help and certainly this is a fantastic service to assist those who are struggling.


Headspace.org.au are offering specific advice to their cohort (for ages twelve to twenty five years) for those struggling from the impacts of COVID-19 suggesting tips on how to “get back into life” during this time.


It is certainly worth directing your “young person” to either of these websites if you feel that they are at risk of, or have been, self-harming.


COMMON CHALLENGES that might be identified are; lack of motivation, inability to keep a routine, withdrawing from doing things that are normally enjoyed, trouble with sleeping, drinking alcohol or taking drugs, failing to exercise regularly as well as increased fears about the future.


Lifeline also offers great advice on self-harm and explain that there are a range of reasons why people resort to it.


Some of these reasons are to help stop “negative emotions or pain, such as feeling hopeless, anxious or rejected.”


Other reasons for self-harm include self-punishment, but often it is to simply “release tension”.


ISOLATION or LONLINESS are other reasons why individuals might self-harm, and this is perhaps why during COVID-19 there has been such an increase in numbers.


CONTROL is another motive for people to self-harm, because those who do it, may have lost a sense of control in some part of their life, but are in control of what they do to their own body.


What is important, is that we, the observers of self-harm, are aware that this behaviour is a possible cry for help, a cry to be noticed, or a cry that the perpetrator is not coping with their life as it is.


SEEK help if you are self-harming or know someone that is self-harming, there are many brilliant services in Victoria and many counsellors willing to listen.


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