Teen girls are now more likely to intentionally hurt themselves than ever before, a phenomenon that is likely due to a spike in the cases of cyberbullying — increasingly prevalent in the age of social media.
A 15-year study carried out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly 29,000 girls and 14,000 boys were treated at emergency rooms between 2001 and 2015 for self-inflicted wounds, but the increase of such cases was only noted among girls.
In 2009, 110 emergency room visits per 100,000 were from girls between the ages of 10 and 14, while nearly 318 visits out of every 100,000 in 2015 were from girls of the same age group, marking a sharp increase in the rates of teens seeking help due to self-injury.
Still, the CDC reports, older girls had the the highest rates of ER visits tied to drug overdoses, self-cutting, or attempted suicides, with 633 visits per 100,000 in 2015.
While the CDC hasn’t made it clear what exactly led to the increase in self-harm cases among young girls, some people experts that economic stress, as well as cyberbullying and substance abuse may have something to do with the increase in cases of self-harm events.
To Columbia University psychiatry professor Dr. Mark Olfson, the increase in cases of girls inflicting self-harm and overdosing on drugs is of great concern and should not be ignored by parents.
“One important reason to focus on reducing self-harm is that it is [a] key risk factor for suicide,” he explained.
While overdoses and self-poisoning were some of the most common methods used by both girls and boys, intentional cutting was a close second, showing that teens are not afraid of putting themselves in harm’s way by using sharp objects.
According to researchers, this increase in cases of serious self-inflicted injuries indicates a need to boost prevention efforts. Researchers also said that such measures should start early, with efforts targeting at-risk kids so they won’t feel as isolated.
In the age of the internet, when kids and adults alike have access to a series of social media platforms, it’s easy to see why so many children feel victimized.
With 52 percent of teens saying they have been cyberbullied in the past and 20 percent saying it happens once or twice every month, experts may be right in saying that bullying, specifically on social media, is directly associated with the sharp uptick in cases involving teens inflicting self-harm.
And that's why it’s important that kids with a history of depression or victimization have a network of support. Teachers as well as parents must be alert to the signs of trouble as soon as they first begin to appear so that cases of self-harm are prevented.
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