Trigger warning: This post deals with self-harm and suicide in children and may be triggering for some readers.
But frightening new figures reveal that some young Australians are intentionally self-harming at just three years of age – and being hospitalised for their shocking injuries.
According to news.com.au, Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell tabled a groundbreaking new report on suicide and self-harm to parliament last week, arguing that the alarming figures call for a thorough evaluation of the effectiveness of support programs for kids.
Ms Mitchell said the data, released in a report by the Australian Human Rights Commission, revealed that children as young as three had been hospitalised for intentional self-harm in recent years.
She added that over the past five years, five Australian children aged between four to 11 died from intentional self-harm.
A staggering 18,227 children and young people were hospitalised in Australia for intentional self harm over the last five years, data sourced from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reveals.
Of those hospitalisations, a whopping 82% were for intentional self-poisoning.
The data also reveals an 657% increase in the number of deaths due to intentional self-harm when comparing the 12-13 year age range with the 14-15 year age range.
In light of the alarming research, Commissioner Mitchell is pushing for more targeted interventions and more detailed surveillance of death and hospitalisation due to intentional self-harm in children aged 4-17 years.
“The increase in the number of deaths in children aged 14-15 compared with those aged 12-13 tells us that we need to target our interventions much better,” Commissioner Mitchell said.
“It is clear that we need to review the timing of interventions and support, and work with children much earlier to build resilience and encourage help seeking.”
She also said the data highlighted a need for a “national research agenda” on the topic of self-harm and suicide in children.
Priority topics for such research should include ways to encourage children and young people to access appropriate help and support.
“Strategies to promote help-seeking as a positive life skill and a sign of strength should be prioritised,” Commissioner Mitchell said.
If you or somebody you know needs help or support, you can contact Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or www.kidshelp.com.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au, or headspace on 1800 650 890 or www.eheadspace.org.au.