A NEW report reveals more people are being hospitalised after intentionally hurting themselves, and the experiences of local youth workers also suggest self-harm is on the rise.
The Australian Health and Welfare Institute (AIHW) report shows the rate of hospitalisations for intentional self-harm rose by 1 per cent every year between 1999-00 and 2010-11.
By 2010-11, self-harm accounted for nearly 6 per cent of injury hospitalisations in Australia.
Headspace Tamworth youth care co-ordinator and provisional psychologist, Katie Bryant, said this increase reflected what had been seen by the youth mental health service.
Ms Bryant said self-harm was used by young people as a way of dealing with overwhelming or distressing emotions.
She suggested it could be on the rise because it was becoming more well-known, so more people were likely to try it as a coping mechanism.
In a group of 51 clients at the Tamworth headspace service, 73 per cent said they had self-harmed. Most were female, with 81 per cent of female clients having self-harmed, compared to 68 per cent of young men.
This was reflected in the AIHW report, which showed among 15- to 24-year-olds, the number of women who self-harmed was more than double that of men.
The AIHW report showed the rate of self-harm hospitalisations rose with increasing remoteness, with the lowest rates seen in major cities.
According to headspace, about one in 10 young people are affected by self-harm, but exact figures are hard to obtain because many hide their injuries or never come into contact with health services.
While self-harm is prevalent among young adults, the AIHW report found it occurred across all age groups and 25 to 44-year-olds accounted for the most hospitalisations.
For people who suspect a friend or family member is self-harming, Ms Bryant said it was important to remain calm and recognise not all self-harm indicates a suicide attempt.
She said they should create a non-judgmental, safe environment, offer support and space to talk by using such language as “I’m here”, and avoid lecturing the person in question.
They should also be encouraged to seek professional help, she said.
For more information, visit www.headspace.org.au or talk to your GP. If you need immediate assistance, visit the hospital, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.