By Their Own Young Hand: Deliberate Self-Harm and Suicidal Ideas in Adolescents

By Keith Hawton; Karen Rodham et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1

Introduction and Overview

This book is about deliberate self-harm in adolescents. This is one of the most important social and healthcare problems for people at this stage of life. Deliberate self-harm includes any intentional act of self-injury or self-poisoning (overdose), irrespective of the apparent motivation or intention. The purposes of such acts include actual suicide attempts, a means of altering a distressing state of mind, a way of showing other people how bad aperson is feeling, and an attempt to change the dynamics of an interpersonal relationship. This book provides an overview of the nature and extent of deliberate self-harm in adolescents, including causes and risk factors, and offers guidance on treatment and prevention. It is intended to be a practical and easily accessible resource.

In the UK, the extent of the problem measured in terms of hospital presentations of young people who have self-harmed has been recognised for a long time (Hawton and Goldacre, 1982; Hawton et al., 1982b; Kreitman and Schreiber, 1979; Taylor and Stansfeld, 1984a, b). Based on figures from deliberate self-harm monitoring systems, somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 adolescents present to hospital each year in the UK because of self-inflicted overdoses or injuries. Deliberate self-harm represents one of the most common reasons for hospital presentation of adolescents. After deliberate self-harm was first recognised as a significant problem in the UK during the 1960s and 1970s, rates rose so rapidly that dire predictions were being made about the future demands that this phenomenon, especially self-poisoning by girls, would place on hospital resources (Kreitman and Schreiber, 1979). In the event, the rates levelled off, with signs of a small decrease during the early1980s (Sellar et al., 1990). However, there has been a further increase in rates in more recent years, particularly in girls (Hawton et al., 2003c; O'Loughlin and Sherwood, 2005).

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