Professor Carol Fitzpatrick, a specialist in child psychiatry, said children as young as five and six have presented to Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street, Dublin, because of self-harm or suicide attempts.
She said that as adolescence approaches, the problem becomes more common.
Data from a special deliberate self-harm team at Temple Street also reflects the growing trend.
Prof Fitzpatrick said the figures for last year were up “very significantly”.
She also said that, looking at the figures so far this year, it appeared as though they were set to increase again.
In seven years, the team has seen 566 cases of children aged 16 and under with self-harm or suicidal behaviour.
Paul Kelly, director of Console, a charity that supports those bereaved through suicide and promotes mental health in the community, said deliberate self-harm and suicidal ideation were growing problems in young people.
Console had seen children aged six and seven who were “at risk”.
He said Console was hoping to increase its psychotherapy services to adolescents and younger children owing to the worrying trend.
According to latest figures from the National Suicide Research Foundation, published last month, an increase in self-harm was “observed” in the 10-14 age bracket.
An estimated one in 10 adolescents in Ireland resorts to self-harm. Hospitals reported 197 cases of girls self-harming and 63 of boys in this age group last year.
The report urged: “Considering the high rates of deliberate self-harm in adolescents and the increase in self-harm among those aged 10-14 in 2008, there is a need to prioritise evidence-based mental health programmes for children and adolescents as well as specialist mental health services.”
Mr Kelly said Console was appealing for help resource counselling for young people at risk.
“We are all feeling the effects of the recession and know now is not the time to ask people to delve into their pockets to donate. Instead, we are doing all in our power to create events and services to continue to fund our work this year,” said Mr Kelly.
He said the charity was seeking 1,000 people from across Ireland to pack bags in Dunnes Stores on Saturday, August 29, to raise essential funds for people devastated by the suicide of a loved one.
* Anyone wishing to help out on the day can contact 01-6102638 or email email@example.com.