Teen self-harm increases by 85 per cent

More Canadian youth are being hospitalized for self-harm than ever before, according to a new report from the Canadian Institute for Health.

“In the last five years, hospitalization of teenagers having harmed themselves has increased by 85 per cent,” said Juliana Wu, manager for decision support and registries at the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

The report found that from 2013 to 2014, almost 2,500 youth between the ages of 10 to 17 were hospitalized for self-inflicted injuries. Girls made up more than 80 per cent of these hospitalizations.

Wu said when it comes to self-harm, teens aren’t just cutting themselves.

“Misuse of prescription drugs accounted for 80 per cent of the cases followed by young people who cut themselves or hurt themselves using sharp objects,” Wu said.

The report says that self-inflicted poisoning was the most common method of self-harm in 2013 to 2014. Others included the use of narcotics, prescription medication, illegal drugs, chemical solvents and alcohol.

Wu admitted that the data collected doesn’t explain everything.

“In general we know that the female population is more likely to seek medical help if they have issues so it might just explain the fact that maybe more girls are showing up to the hospital for treatment compared to boys,” Wu said.

At the East Metro Youth Services (EMYS), a mental health and addictions centre for youth and young adults, eight per cent of the clients that visit their walk in clinic have self-harming behaviours.

Alana Burke, an individual family therapist at the walk in clinic, says the clinic help a variety of people, but all the clients that see her share something in common.

“They’re often wanting to get relief from painful or distracting feelings. They sometimes experience feeling of numbness so it’s a way to experience feeling again and they sometimes do it because they’re communicating their pain,” Burke said.

Burke said self-harming by teens is a problem that has serious consequences.

“The short term effects are potentially having mismanagement of self care and coping strategies and difficulty communicating with one another,” Burke said. “There can be some physical problematic symptoms of cutting also in the long term it’s a continued difficulty in regulating themselves which them can escalate if earlier on they aren’t experiencing other ways to communicate their feelings and experiences.”

When it comes to teens intentionally harming themselves, many people are affected.

The Association of Parent Support Groups in Ontario (APSGO), an organization founded by parents, has been helping support parents with children facing crises since 1980.

“We categorize teenagers in crisis as any behaviour that is pulling away from them being productive successful citizens,” Lisa Latorcai, the public relations chair for APSGO, said.

When parents come to APSGO for support they always stress the importance of building a relationship.

“We teach the concept that children want your approval first,”Latorcai said. “The role of the parent is not the guidance counsellor, not the parole officer, it’s not the police, it really is to be a parent to be supportive and to be guiding them into adult behaviour.”