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Self-harm among girls on the rise: CDC

Washington Times - 11/23/2017

Self-inflicted injuries among young girls are on the rise, with emergency department visits having increased by nearly 20 percent each year between 2009 and 2015, according to a research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Poisonings, cuttings and injury from blunt objects all rose for girls between the ages of 10 to 24, with the greatest increase occurring among those 10 to 14 years old, increasing 18.8 percent annually over a four-year period.

"Self-inflicted injury is one of the strongest risk factors for suicide — the second-leading cause of death among those aged 10 to 24 years during 2015," wrote researchers from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

They examined 43,138 cases of self-inflicted injuries for youth from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program.

Rates of self-harm were stable year to year until 2008, the authors found. They found little to no increases in emergency room visits for boys for self-harm, but dramatic increases for girls, echoing other data and research showing rates of depression and suicides at an all-time high in young women.

In 2009, 109.8 per 100,000 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 visited an emergency department for a self-inflicted injury. In 2015, the number rose to 317.7 — with poisoning the most common method of harm.

The researchers don't provide possible explanation for the increase in self-harm among young girls, but a separate study, also published this month by the behavioral psychologist Jean Twenge, pointed to the rise in smartphone ownership among youth as a contributing factor.

"In this case, we tried to just go systematically through possible explanations and rule them in or out and, at the end of the day, the pronounced increase in smartphone ownership seems like the most logical explanation," Ms. Twenge told The Washington Times. "It was by far the largest change in teens' lives between 2012 and 2015."

Ms. Twenge also found those that had five hours of screen time were 71 percent more likely to have depression or suicidal thoughts compared to someone who spent only between one and two hours on a smart device.

"The preponderance of the evidence points in the direction of more screen time leading to depression and mental health issues," she said. "Doing nothing risks these mental health issues continuing to be at these historically very high levels. The research suggests we shouldn't be telling people to give up their phones entirely; it's limiting the amount of screen time."

In the latest research letter by the CDC, the authors strongly recommend increasing mental health services for youth.

"These findings underscore the need for the implementation of evidence-based, comprehensive suicide and self-harm prevention strategies within health systems and communities," they wrote. "These strategies include strengthening access to and delivery of care for suicidal youth within health systems and creating protective environments, promoting youth connectedness, teaching coping and problem-solving skills, and identifying and supporting at-risk youth within communities."


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