Self-harm and young people

Self-harming behaviours are often described as a response to emotional or psychological distress, including overwhelming negative feelings and a sense of hopelessness. While a history of self-harm is a risk factor for suicide, generally self-harm is not an attempt at suicide, instead some young people engage in self-harming behaviours as an alternative to ending their life.

In Australia, rates of self-harm among young people are cause for concern. The 2015 Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey found that approximately one in ten Australian adolescents had self-harmed at some point in their lives. Among young women aged 16-17 years, 22.8 per cent had self-harmed in their lifetime.

This research bulletin summarises findings from recent literature and identifies opportunities both in clinical practice and research to develop and trial new therapeutic approaches.


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