Sen­si­tive ap­proach needed as age of self-harm­ers falls

There has been a rise in cases of self-harm­ing in Buck­ing­hamshire, with chil­dren as young as five be­ing treated for in­juries in A&E units, ac­cord­ing to statis­tics re­leased in re­sponse to a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest. speaks to an ex­pert from ChildLin

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS FEATURE -

CHARLIE Cuth­bert was 11 years old when she started to self-harm. “It first started when my par­ents split up. Now I can look back and know it’s not my fault, but [at the time] you don’t feel that way.”

Charlie has had time to re­flect as she is now an in­tern with Self­harm.co. uk, a char­ity that helps peo­ple who self-harm.

“No one found out I was cut­ting my­self un­til I was 15. I didn’t know who I could talk to.

“The school found out and I was re­ferred me to CAMs [spe­cial­ists]. They said it wasn’t se­ri­ous enough and I was sent to my GP – there wasn’t such an un­der­stand­ing then.

“At first it was re­ally a way of cop­ing.

“I didn’t know who to talk to or what to say. It helped when I could talk to some­one who wasn’t in­volved and who had ex­pe­ri­ence. That re­ally helped and I didn’t feel judged.”

Charlie was even­tu­ally put in touch with the Lu­ton Churches Ed­u­ca­tion Trust, where she got in­volved with a group who go into schools to help chil­dren un­der­stand their emo­tions, teach them about self-worth, and how to deal with feel­ings rather than self-harm­ing.

“It’s to see there is an al­ter­na­tive to self-harm­ing and other ways to cope,” said Charlie, who is now 21.

“Now I see there are lots of rea­sons why it hap­pens; dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren, bul­ly­ing, the death of a loved one, pres­sure and not know­ing how to cope.

“Now I’d say to talk to some­one, some­one who you feel com­fort­able talk­ing to. That can be dif­fi­cult.”

Fig­ures re­leased via a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest re­vealed a rise in the num­ber of chil­dren self-harm­ing.

More alarm­ingly, chil­dren as young as five (2009/10) have been treated for self-in­flicted in­juries in Buck­ing­hamshire.

Buck­ing­hamshire Health­care NHS Trust’s ac­ci­dent and emer­gency units have treated 51 chil­dren who in­ten­tion­ally self-harmed dur­ing the past five years.

The fig­ures gath­ered re­lated to peo­ple less than 18 years old at­tend­ing A&E who had com­mit­ted de­lib­er­ate self-harm.

There has also been an in­crease in the num­ber of young peo­ple at­tend­ing Bucks’ A&E units for de­lib­er­ate self-harm be­tween 2012/13 and 2013/14.

There were just eight cases in 2012/13, but 21 in 2013/14 – an in­crease of 162.5 per cent.

Na­tion­ally there has been a 47 per cent rise in cases of self-harm­ing.

ChildLine has not had calls from any­one as young as five, but 70 per cent of con­tacts about self-harm were be­tween 12 and 15 years old.

Mark Ba­jer, se­nior su­per­vi­sor at ChildLine, said: “Self-harm­ing was listed in the top five con­cerns for young peo­ple in the past few years.

“Be­tween 2011 and 2012 the main age was 14, and then it was 13-year-olds for the first time in 2012/13.”

ChildLine also recorded a 50 per cent in­crease in con­tacts (the term is uses for calls or on­line queries).

“We have been get­ting a lot of calls in the past five years. It’s in­creas­ing year by year.”

Mr Ba­jer said he feels there has been a par­tic­u­larly marked in­crease in the past year.

He said it was hard to pin­point a rea­son, other than young peo­ple strug­gling with the ‘in­creas­ing pres­sure’ put on them.

“I wouldn’t wish to spec­u­late why it has gone up but they are telling us they are find­ing it a mech­a­nism to cope with a range of things,” he said.

“They don’t want to dis­ap­point, or feel pres­sure; they use it to get away from their bad thoughts.

“If they have been do­ing it a while, it’s like an ad­dic­tion. They even change their bio­chem­istry by do­ing it. En­dor­phines are re­alised, like a painkiller, but it’s just tem­po­rary.”

YoungMinds, another char­ity that helps young peo­ple who self-harm, said ear­lier this year that it has also seen an in­crease in on­line en­quiries.

The same has been the case for ChildLine since it launched its on­line ser­vice.

Mr Ba­jer added: “They are more com­fort­able to say it on­line than on the tele­phone.”

Of course on­line ac­cess can also have a neg­a­tive out­come.

Self-harm­ing of­ten makes the news, thanks to celebri­ties shar­ing their tales or tweet­ing.

Demi Lo­vato, the Amer­i­can singer, has owned up to self-harm­ing, and ac­tress An­gelina Jolie has also talked about her ex­pe­ri­ences.

But while there is no denying this is a grow­ing prob­lem for chil­dren and young peo­ple, there seems to be a slower re­sponse as to how do deal with it.

There are of­ten long wait­ing lists for help through the NHS and chil­dren can be re­luc­tant to talk.

Mr Ba­jer said: “It’s hard for chil­dren to talk to par­ents – some may no­tice and then find it hard to ap­proach their child. It’s bet­ter to ask for help then.

“But we are told it’s of­ten for no other rea­son than they don’t want to worry them or deal with a dis­tressed par­ent.

“They feel they are wor­ried about other things or maybe they don’t have a good re­la­tion­ship or feel they won’t un­der­stand.

“All I’d say is, think care­fully be­fore ap­proach­ing chil­dren; per­haps sug­gest a char­ity or childline or even the GP.”

Charlie, who lives in Mil­ton Keynes, agrees: “Not ev­ery­one is ready to talk but they need to know peo­ple are there.”

She is cur­rently study­ing for a masters de­gree in coun­selling, driven by the hope she can help oth­ers who are in the same sit­u­a­tion she was once in.

“I want to use my ex­pe­ri­ence,” she said.

Visit www.get­bucks. co.uk for guid­ance on what to do if you sus­pect some­one is self-harm­ing.

Con­trib­uted

MOV­ING ON: Charlie Cuth­bert hopes she can use her own ex­pe­ri­ences to help oth­ers once she is qual­i­fied as a coun­sel­lor

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