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 7

The Health Service and
Deliberate Self-harm

Introduction

As we discussed in Chapter 5, there is clear evidence from a number of sources to indicate that a substantial proportion of adolescents who carry out acts of deliberate self-harm or have thoughts of self-harm do not receive help. One important aspect of this issue is the attitude of young people to help-seeking, especially those adolescents who have problems. For example, in a study of adolescents in New Zealand, fewer of those who had thoughts of self-harm said they would seek professional help than did their peers who were not experiencing such problems but who were asked what they would do if they did have thoughts of self-harm (Carlton and Deane, 2000). In our schools study, a quarter of the adolescents who self-harmed did not think that they had a serious problem. This confirms Saunders and colleagues' (1994) finding that suggests that adolescents may need help in order to identify their problems and assess their severity. Furthermore, compared with their peers, adolescents in our study who reported deliberate self-harm or thoughts of self-harm indicated fewer categories of people with whom they felt able to talk about things that really bothered them. For most of those with a deliberate self-harm episode, at least one person or source knew about it, but over 20 per cent said that no one knew.

Another important aspect of the provision of help for adolescents with emotional problems and who may be at risk of deliberate self-harm concerns the availability of services. The document Bridging the Gaps: Healthcare for Adolescents (Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, 2003) provides an overview of the healthcare of adolescents in the UK and describes some of the current deficiencies. For example, there is a relative dearth of specific

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