Self-harm Research

In 2004, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence published the first treatment guideline on self-harm, revealing 170,000 people a year attended A&E departments with many being sent away with no proper help. In response to this report SANE undertook a major self-harm research study. 

Nearly a thousand people, 827 of whom had first hand experience of self-harm, took part in the study. Over five hundred participants were still harming at the time of filling in the survey. The most commonly reported method was cutting/scratching (93%) or burning (28%) the skin and the most frequently targeted body parts were arms (83%) and thighs/legs (50%). A fifth had overdosed on medicines. It seemed to us that majority of participants, when answering further questions about self-harm, were thinking mainly of cutting/scratching or burning. The functions and motives of overdosing seemed to differ slightly from those associated with cutting and burning.

Despite being thought of as something that teenagers and young adults do, the results from our survey showed that self-harm affects people of all ages. The age range of those who were still harming at the time they took part was 12-59 years of age, and while some people were reporting that they had first started self-harming as young as four, others had not harmed until they were in their late fifties. Although the majority were female, just over a hundred men who had at some time harmed themselves took part in the survey (this made up 12% of all participants who had harmed). It is still unclear whether self-harm really is that much more in common in girls/women than in boys/men, or whether the former are just more willing to talk about it and seek help.

A study published in The Lancet in November 2011 found that one in twelve teenagers self harm. In the following video Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of SANE, is interviewed by Sky News following publication of this study.