This article refers to self-harming and therefore may be triggering for some readers. If this topic is something that affects you, please navigate away from this page.
The number of teenage girls admitted to hospitals in England for self-harming has tripled over the past 10 years.
The figures, obtained by the PA news agency, reveals a rise in self-harm admissions among 13 to 17-year-old girls from 980 in 2009/10 to 3,235 in 2019/20.
The number means that this age group has now overtaken 18 to 22-year-olds as the most common age profile among self-harm admissions.
The concerning total makes up one third of the 9,675 admissions in people aged 13 to 30, as revealed by the latest NHS Digital data.
At the start of the 2010s, not only did admissions among teenage girls make up a smaller proportion of this total (19%), the total itself was over 80% lower (5,245).
In the overall 13-30 age group, self-harm has risen in 8 out of 10 years since 2010, however, female cases have more than doubled (from 2,950 to 6,720) while male admissions have risen roughly a quarter (2,295 to 2,955).
As a result, females between the ages of 13 and 30 now make almost 70% of all self-harm admissions – an increase from 56% in 2010.
Anne Longfield, the children's commissioner for England, described the rise as "alarming" an indicative of a growing mental health problems in young people.
“While there have been welcome improvements in some areas of children’s mental health services over the last couple of years, the scale of the problem is getting bigger and the Covid crisis has made it even worse," said Longfield.
“It is vital that more is done to tackle children’s mental health problems early. Every school needs an NHS-funded counsellor, and I want to see a children’s mental health service that is properly funded, with no postcode lottery, so that children receive the support and treatment they need as quickly as possible.”
The director of campaigns at youth mental health charity YoungMinds, Tom Madders, added his concerns: “The reasons why young people self-harm are often complex, but we know that traumatic experiences at a young age – like bereavement, bullying or abuse – can have a huge impact on mental health.
“School pressure, racism, concerns about how you look and difficult relationships with family or friends can also have a significant effect."
Madders' comments reflect findings from a new joint report by the Education Policy Institute and Prince's Trust.
The report highlights family issues, problems at school and heavy social media use as key drivers in poor mental health among teenagers.
Depressive symptoms in particular were found to be more common in teenage girls, with the number of girls unhappy with their appearance markedly increasing between 11 and 14.
“While there is higher awareness about mental health than in the past, many young people who self-harm still find it hard to reach out for help until they hit crisis point," added Madders.
“With the coronavirus adding to the pressures young people face, the Government must prioritise early support for young people’s mental health so that everyone can get help as soon as they need it.”