Social media is helping fuel a nation of “deeply unhappy” children, a charity has warned, as it published new figures showing a rise in self-harm.
Data shows 18,778 children in England and Wales aged 11 to 18 were admitted to hospital for self-harm in 2015/16, a rise of 14% from 2013/14.
The figures were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).
Teenagers aged 13 to 17 were the most likely to end up in hospital for self-harm, including things such as cutting, overdosing on pills or burning themselves.
Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “A frightening number of children and teenagers are being driven to self-harm as a way of dealing with unresolved feelings, tensions and distress in their lives.
“Knowing hospital beds are full of young people crying out for help should be a real wake-up call to all those that care for the wellbeing of the younger generation.
“It is vital we confront the fact that an increasing number are struggling to deal with the pressures and demands of modern-day life, to such an extent they are inflicting terrible damage upon themselves.”
He went on: “It is clear from the thousands of calls Childline receives that we have a nation of deeply unhappy children.
“We know this unhappiness is partly due to the constant pressure they feel, particularly from social media, to have the perfect life or attain a certain image which is often unrealistic.
“They tell us that the need to keep up with friends and the 24/7 nature of technology means they feel they can never escape or switch off, adding to the misery that many feel on a daily basis.
“Childline is often the only place that many young people feel they can turn to when no-one else is listening.”
Figures from the Childline helpline run by the NSPCC also showed it delivered 18,471 counselling sessions about self-harm last year – equivalent to 50 a day.
One 14-year-old boy who contacted Childline said: “Sometimes I get flashbacks from what happened when I was younger and I cope with the horrible memories by cutting myself – it helps me release the pain from within.
“School helped take my mind off things but now that the holidays are here I’m struggling.
“My parents always seem to be too busy for me and I don’t want to tell my friends what happened.
“I feel so miserable and lonely – can you please help?”
Childline president Dame Esther Rantzen said self-harming was at an “epidemic level among young people”.
She added: “It has become one of the most common problems young people bring to us, and I know from our counsellors that these are some of the most painful stories we hear.
“Often the young people feel too ashamed and fearful to seek help from those around them, until they harm themselves so badly they have to be rushed to hospital.”