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​Better primary care services needed to curb self-harm in young people

Improved primary care services need to be offered to young people to reduce the rate of non-suicidal self-harm in this age group, a study has urged.

Non-suicidal self-harm rates have soared since 2014, according to the research, especially in young women, leading to researchers suggesting that better primary care services are needed to help people cope with emotional distress.

The study, published in the Lancet and carried out by UK researchers, analysed data from just over 20,000 patients aged between 16 and 74 who participated in psychiatric surveys between 2000 and 2014.

They found that the lifetime prevalence of non-suicidal self-harm rose from 2.4% in 2000 to 6.4% in 2014. Prevalence was highest in 16-24-year-olds girls, increasing to nearly 20% in 2014 from 6.5% in 2000.

They also found that in 2014, almost two-thirds of those who engaged in non-suicidal self-harm had no subsequent contact with medical services, with men even less likely than women to have contact with medical care.

The authors said that the increase in self-harm could be due to more people using it as a way to cope with emotional distress.

They said in the paper: ‘If self-harm is increasing among young people partly because it is thought of as a way of coping with emotional stress, there could be serious long-term public health implications, including normalisation of self-harm and potential increases in suicide rates.

‘Better primary care and educational services need to be offered, and self-harm needs to be discussed in a way that helps young people to find safer ways of coping.’

Prime Minister Theresa May heralded ‘proper funding’ for mental health as one of her major achievements in office in her resignation speech last month.


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