Ipswich Hospital A&E treated 225 children in a year due to self-harming
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More than 200 children attended Ipswich Hospital’s emergency department in one year because of self-harming, new figures reveal.
Charity workers have said young people may struggle with feelings of stress, depression or anxiety because of exam pressures, social media and self-esteem issues.
This winter, Ipswich Hospital is due to implement a new, “more responsive” service for minors presenting at A&E with mental health concerns, working alongside the Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group and Suffolk County Council’s Children’s and Young People’s Service.
Between April 2016 and March 2017, a total of 225 children went to Ipswich’s emergency room having deliberately hurt themselves, six fewer than the previous year.
Of those patients, 102 had taken an intentional overdose, 39 fewer than 2015-16.
Tibbs Pinter, chief executive of Suffolk Young People’s Health Project, also known as 4YP, said: “I find the figures quite surprising, particularly the number of overdoses, and it’s something we as a charity need to react to.”
4YP, which provides counselling sessions to around 6,500 young people across Suffolk every year, has recently done a survey with 12-25-year-olds about the reasons why they might self-harm. Top results included: relationship problems, sexuality, self-loathing, family issues and overwhelming emotions.
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Mr Pinter said the charity saw an increase in young people accessing its services during the exam period.
He added: “It’s a time of competition, so you start rating yourself and that gets quite worrying because your self-worth and self-esteem can take a bit of a beating.”
Ezra Hewing, head of mental health education at Suffolk Mind, said: “Sometimes people self-harm because it gives them a degree of control over the way they are feeling.
“Mental health depends upon getting our physical and emotional needs met and when people don’t have healthy ways of doing that they may resort to unhealthy coping strategies, such as self-harming.”
Mr Hewing said it was important for parents whose children were cutting to address the subject calmly and without judgement to reduce the risk of them using unclean tools.
He added: “Adolescence is a time of lots of hormonal changes that affect mood, the way we feel about ourselves, our self-esteem and how other people view us.
“When someone goes through a period of change they are more sensitive to peer pressure, concerns about body image, concerns about social skills, exam pressure or how they will get on in the adult world when they leave school.”
When asked what could be done to help children to be mentally well, Mr Hewing said: “Normalising strong feelings and moods and learning about emotional needs and healthy ways of getting them met.”
An NSPCC spokesman for the East of England said mental wellbeing was the most common concern for young people calling the charity’s Childline.
He added: “These worrying figures confirm once again that a large number of children are struggling to deal with the pressures and demands of modern-day life.”
Children and young people can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk