15% jump in Irish men who self-harm

The number of Irish men self-harming has jumped by 15% in the last 10 years with the rates particularly high among young people.

The figures come ahead of an upcoming conference on March 1 by St Patrick’s Mental Health Services and Pieta House. They are urging parents, teachers and caregivers across the country to get educated on the subject of self-harm.

Approximately 10% of adolescents worldwide is affected by self-harm which is defined as “self-injury or self-poisoning irrespective of the apparent purpose of the act”.

Figures from the National Suicide Research Foundation show that, in 2015, the national male rate of self-harm in Ireland was 186 per 100,000 — 1% higher than in 2014. The female rate of self-harm in 2015 was 222 per 100,000 — 3% up on 2014.

The peak rate for women was in the 15 to 19-year-old age group at 718 per 100,000, whereas the peak rate among men was in 20 to 24-year-old age group at 553 per 100,000.

These rates imply that one in every 139 girls in the 15 to 19 age group and one in every 181 men in the 20 to 24 age group presented to hospital in 2015 as a consequence of self-harm.

Since 2007, the male rate of self-harm has increased by 15% with the female rate rising by 3% in the same period.

Self-harm is also the strongest risk factor for later suicide, with research evidence suggesting that as many as 80% of under 25s who die by suicide globally have self-harmed in the year prior to their death.

There has been a global increase in the rate of adolescent self-harm in recent decades, yet the rate of people seeking help remains low.

Community-based studies report that only 10%-13% of adolescents who had self-harmed presented to hospital. The estimates for teenage prevalence of self-harm range from 15% to 45% among community and clinical samples.

St Patrick’s chief executive Paul Gilligan said self-harm remains poorly understood despite being so closely linked to suicide.

“The increase in rates of self-harm among adolescents over the last number of years is worrying and yet we’re just not talking about it as a society. While we know that as many as 80% of under 25s who die by suicide have self-harmed in the year prior to their death, the act of self-harm continues to remain poorly understood,” he said.

Director of research, education and training with Pieta House Dr Paul Surgenor said the figures for Ireland were likely higher than the official statistics suggest.

“The figures from the National Research Foundation are alarming but what is even more concerning is the fact that these figures are only based on hospital presentations, and it has been estimated that only 10% of adolescents who had self-harmed had actually presented to hospital,” he said.

Keynote speaker at the conference will be the Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon.

The 2017 Self-Harm Awareness Conference will be held in the Aviva Stadium on March 1 and will offer a mix of practical workshops and presentations relevant to teaching staff, community workers, parents and students.

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