A new survey by Queen’s University and the University of Ulster has revealed that one-in-ten 16-year-olds have considered self-harm or taking an overdose.
The results of the annual Young Life and Times (YLT) survey, published today during Mental Health Awareness Week, also found that almost a third of 16-year-olds questioned had experienced serious personal, emotional or mental health problems at some point in the past year.
A total of 1367 16-year-olds across Northern Ireland took part in the 2013 survey which aims to give an insight into their lives.
The survey focussed on 16-year-olds’ sense of community belonging, their experience of financial hardship, and their mental health, including self-harm.
Key findings of the survey on 16-year-olds’ mental health reveal that 28 per cent of the group said that they had experienced serious personal, emotional or mental health problems at some point in the past year.
One third of these respondents said they had sought professional help for these problems.
However 13 per cent of the group said they had, at some point in the past, seriously thought about taking an overdose or harming themselves - and six per cent said they had thought about this in the past month.
Meanwhile 13 per cent of respondents said they had self-harmed, with five per cent saying they had done so once and eight per cent more than once. Sixty per cent of the group who said they had self-harmed indicated their reason was that they ‘wanted to punish themselves’.
In 2008, when these questions were asked for the first time in YLT, 26 per cent of 16-year-olds had experienced serious mental health problems, 13 per cent of respondents had thought about self-harm, whilst 10 per cent had actually done so.
Dr Dirk Schubotz from the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen’s University and YLT Director, said that despite the investment in mental health services in Northern Ireland, “there has been virtually no change with regard to young people’s experiences of stress and mental health problems”. “Although mental health campaigns have for some time attempted to de-stigmatise mental ill-health, by far the most likely reason why young people self-harm remains self-punishment,” he added. “This suggests that young people with mental health problems keep blaming themselves for these, rather than appreciating external stressors such as pressures.”