One in ten 16 year olds in Northern Ireland have self-harmed in the past year, according to new research by ARK at Queen’s University and the University of Ulster.
Of the 941 young people who were questioned during the 2008 Young Life and Times Survey, a further 14 per cent had thought about harming themselves in the past year but had not done so.
This is the first time a representative sample of young people in Northern Ireland has been asked about their attitudes to and experiences of self-harm.
Other key findings from the survey were:
Dr Dirk Schubotz, Young Life and Times Director based at the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen’s said: “This research will help fill the gap in our understanding of young people’s attitudes to and experiences of self-harm. We hope these findings will raise awareness of this sensitive issue. Self-harm is something that often happens behind closed doors, but this study has shown that one in ten 16 year olds has tried to harm themselves in the past year, and one in seven have thought about doing so.
“In particular, the findings highlight the pressures experienced by young people. One respondent commented ‘There are so many pressures on young adults, girls especially, that many of us feel that there is no way out, no escape other than to end the hurt’. Another said: ‘I feel young people are put under too much pressure at school and therefore get stressed. I think we are made do too many exams at too young of an age.’
“Perhaps a greater openness towards the emotional upheavals experienced by young people, and an appreciation of the stress they can be under, particularly in school, may help remove the stigma attached to the issue of self-harm and encourage young people to seek help."
The results of the 2008 Young Life and Times Survey are available online at http://www.ark.ac.uk/ylt/2008 The project on self-harm was funded by the Nuffield Foundation and was backed by academics involved in similar studies in England and Scotland, namely Professor Keith Hawton at the Centre for Suicide Research at the University of Oxford and Professor Rory O’Connor at the University of Stirling.
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