The study, which has been published in medical journal the Lancet involved repeatedly surveying 2,000 Australian adolescents over a 15 year period.
The researchers found that depression, anxiety, heavy drinking and cannabis use were all linked to a higher risk of self-harm, and whilst 90% of self-harmers reported stopping the habit upon reaching young adult-hood, 10% continued.
In response to these figures Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity SANE, commented:
“The figures showing that 90% have stopped by the time they reach their twenties should not seduce us into thinking that self harm is just a phase that young people will grow out of”.
“Our research shows that counter to common perception, people self-harm and continue to self-harm at times throughout their lives to protect themselves from attempting suicide and their families and friends from experiencing their mental pain.”
Professor Keith Hawton, Director of the Centre for Suicide Research at the University of Oxford was not involved in the Australian study, but from his own research has found that around 50-60% of individuals who die by suicide have a known history of self-harm.
Hawton is currently working on a Suicide prevention Strategy for England and hopes that studies such as these could play an important role in understanding the association between self-harm and suicide.
Sue Minto, Head of ChildLine told BBC News that last year the charity dealt with 30,000 calls from children relating to self-harm, depression and suicide.
“In cases of self-harm it is vital to discover what is driving the child to take such drastic action. Something is obviously making them extremely unhappy or frightened and until this is resolved it is likely they will continue to injure themselves or, in extreme cases, be driven to suicide”.
If you are self-harming or know and are concerned about someone who is, please visit our self-harm fact-sheet for information about how counselling could be of help.
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