Self-harm cases in children at highest level in Scotland in 14 years

A record high number of children were diagnosed with self-harm issues at hospitals in Scotland last year.

Some 1,400 cases were recorded, up from 1,141 the year before and the highest figure since 2007.

The Scottish Government has said this is likely to be an undercount for the true number of children affected, as the figures record only inpatient data, and many children with self-harm issues are not admitted to hospital.

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The figures were released by mental health minister Kevin Stewart in a written answer to Conservative MSP Miles Briggs.

Admissions are at their highest since 2007.Admissions are at their highest since 2007.
Admissions are at their highest since 2007.

Mr Briggs labelled the figures “truly shocking”.

He said: “They lay bare the devastating effects the pandemic has had on our young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

“Covid has clearly exacerbated the problem, but this distressing issue cannot be blamed entirely on the pandemic. There is a clear long-term trend that keeps getting worse.

“There were already far too many children and young people waiting for mental health treatment before Covid struck and those queues are growing.”

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Mr Briggs called for “urgency” from the Scottish Government.

“The Scottish Conservatives will continue to push for at least 10 per cent of the health budget to be ring-fenced for mental health services to ensure that vulnerable youngsters get the support they need immediately,” he said.

The number of adults diagnosed with self-harm issues fell in 2020, to 8,462, from 8,909 the previous year.

The figure in 2007 was 9,683.

In children the number of self-harm admissions was 1,112 in 2007, before dropping to below 1,000 in each year from 2009 to 2012.

The annual figure has risen each year since 2015.

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said mental health was a “priority”.

“We are working with stakeholders to develop compassionate, person-centred support for people in distress, including those who self-harm,” the spokesperson said.

"It is crucial that we work to reduce stigma to ensure people feel safe and encouraged to seek the help they need.

“Our mental health recovery plan, backed with £120 million, sets out wider steps in response to the pandemic. We have allocated £29.2 million to NHS boards to improve Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), with £4.25m focused on offering treatment to those already on waiting lists this year.

"We will continue to work with NHS boards to support the development and implementation of their local recovery plans and to target investment to improve access to CAMHS.

“We have also allocated an additional £15m to local authorities to deliver mental health and wellbeing support for children and young people in their communities, and more than 200 new and enhanced supports and services have been established.

"In addition, we have provided councils with £16m to ensure every secondary school has access to counselling, while a professional learning resource for school staff has been developed which includes recognising signs of self-harm and knowing how to respond.”

It was reported earlier this year that hospital admissions of nine to 12-year-olds across the UK because of self-injury were averaging ten a week.

The rate had doubled in six years.

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The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) warned only this week that thousands of young people would face the “incredibly tough” stress surrounding exam results as the impact of Covid-19 and lockdown on their mental health takes its toll.

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