Number of young people self-harming is on the rise

(Photo: Sanja Gjenero)

Growing numbers of young people are admitting to self-harming behaviour, according to a leading charity in the field.

Rachel Welch, director of, a project dedicated to supporting young people impacted by self-harm, said: "It's fair to say we are seeing a trend of increased self-harm. More and more young people - from all walks of life - are coming forward and making disclosures.

"It may be that we are on the edge of a horrific epidemic, but it's important we look at things more objectively. The recent increase of media reporting means that we are getting better at talking, and more familiar with finding terminology to describe what's happening."

She was speaking as new NHS figures released to The Times showed self-harming among children as young as 10 has surged by 70 per cent in the past two years.

The number of children aged between 10 and 14 treated in hospital after deliberately hurting themselves has risen by more than 2,700 since 2012. The figures for teenagers between 15 and 19 treated for self-harm over the same period showed an increase of 23 per cent.

Lucie Russell, director of campaigns and media at the charity YoungMinds, said that the online world in which children were growing up had fuelled the high levels of self-harm. "This has never happened before. It is the pressures of the modern world and some of these pressures are unprecedented."

The 24/7 online culture is partly being blamed for leaving young people in the "constant present", The Times reports. Causes of stress, such as sexual pressures, bullying and school work had existed before, but those of the online world are relatively new.

Sue Minto, head of ChildLine, said the increase was frightening. "About 20 years ago I only came across self-harm in sexual abuse cases. Now self-harm is used by children to try to cope with a whole raft of issues."

ChildLine received a 41 per cent increase in calls about self-harm between the years 2011-12 and 2013-14. Most of the calls were from children aged 12 to 15.

Rachel Welch of told Christian Today that young people feel more confident now that they will be heard if they speak out, and there were many more platforms for doing that.

She added: "There is, of course, a flip side. Mental health services have never been more stretched, which means it is much harder for young people to access statutory services - it's hard to know without really digging deep, but I wonder how many of the 10-14 year-olds mentioned in today's Times ended up in A&E accompanied by parents desperate for help, because the GP route had let them down?

"Young people often get the message that they're 'not ill enough' to qualify for services, and so either up the ante in order to be heard or fall through the system altogether - however many young people we know about from press reports like this, there are thousands more who are still suffering in silence. At the end of the day, even one young person hurting themselves is one too many."

She said parents must ccept that it is 100 per cent possible for someone to be struggling with self-harm and still be in close relationship with God. "It's not an either-or situation. Don't judge someone's faith by their self-harm."

She also said the whole social media phenomenon meant young people can recreate themselves online, which is all well and good until it means real-life relationships begin to take second place. "The role of parents, teachers and youth workers are critical in fostering positive real life experiences," she said. "It can be incredibly bewildering for parents and carers to tackle."

She set out six advice points for parents and other concerned carers.

1. There is no shame in self-harm. Do not be fearful of talking to other people - your child's harming is not necessarily a reflection of your parenting, so leave that one behind.

2. Self-harm is a physical response to an emotional pain - try to move your thinking away from what your child is doing and focus more on how they are feeling.

3. Maintain relationship with them. Talk, laugh, do normal things. Don't let the self-harm become the central part of your relationship - being able to see beyond self-harm is an important part of recovery.

4. Be patient, and don't get angry with your child.

5. It's okay not to understand.

6. Contact organisations such as us ( for detailed information about who/why.

She added a further five points for Christian parents seeking to be reassured about their and their self-harming child's relationship with God and their faith.

1. Someone struggling with self-harm can still be used.

2. Be careful about what Bible passages are used - constantly hearing that they are fearfully and wonderfully made can invoke feelings of guilt rather than encouragement.

3. Make sure they understand that God isn't angry with them for self-harming - God loves them so if anything He's probably sad, not angry.

4. Save what you think about demon possession for another day. It's not helpful, unless you want someone to run away from Church altogether.

5. Love, don't judge. None of us are perfect, none of us always make the right choices when it comes to how we cope with life