Dr Eve Griffin, who presented the findings of the National Self Harm Registry Ireland annual report 2014 yesterday, said while the numbers in this age group were small, they were nonetheless increasing “and it’s something we need to keep an eye on”.
Registry figures show 311 children presented with self- harm at the three children’s hospitals in Dublin last year.
The report also found that city residents showed the highest rates of self-harm, particularly in Cork and Limerick. In 2014 the male rate in Cork City was more than twice the national average of 185 per 100,000 and the female rate was 50% higher than the national average of 216 per 100,000. In Limerick City, the male rate was 87% higher than the national average and the female rate was 76% higher.
Dr Griffin said research has shown those living in areas of deprivation and disadvantage have higher rates of self-harm.
While rates of self harm have traditionally been higher among females, the latest figures show the gender difference has narrowed substantially from 37% a decade ago to 16% in 2014. The peak rate for women was in the 15-19 age group and in the 20-24 age group for men.
The most common method of self-harm was drug overdose, involved in two thirds of all acts recorded last year.
Minor tranquilisers, paracetamol-containing medicines, and anti- depressants all played a role. The number of self-harm presentations involving street drugs increased 11%.
Attempted hanging was involved in 7% of cases. This represents a 77% rise between 2007 and 2014, against a backdrop of a greater association between highly lethal self-harm methods and higher suicidal intent.
Cutting was involved in over a quarter of all episodes and alcohol in one third, particularly around weekends and public holidays.
While the report found that overall, self-harm rates have stabilised, there were nonetheless 11,126 presentations involving 8,708 individuals in 2014, 6% higher than the pre-recession rate.
Mental health minister Kathleen Lynch, who attended the launch, stressed the importance of follow-up for patients who presented with self-harm. “There must be someone somewhere who details their history and there must be callback and follow-up,” she said.
The authors of the NSFR report said the national guidelines for management of patients presenting to emergency departments with self-harm should be implemented as a priority.
Director of the National Office for Suicide Prevention Gerry Raleigh, who launched NOSP’s own annual report for 2014, said provisional data for 2013 and 2014 showed 396 and 368 suicides respectively, suggesting a further downward trend in Ireland’s suicide rate. Between 2011 and 2013, rates were highest in Limerick City, Cork City, Kerry, and Wexford. The highest rate for males was in the 45-54 age group. Mr Raleigh said it was of great concern that “we are still losing 10 people a week to suicide and eight of them are men” and that more violent methods of self-harm are used.