Characteristics of Self-harm Behaviour among Identified Self-harming Youth in Care
OBJECTIVE To determine the prevalence and types of deliberate self-harm (DSH) in adolescents, and associated factors. DESIGN A cross-sectional questionnaire study. PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING 3757 of 4097 Year 10 and Year 11 students (91.7%) from 14 high schools on the Gold Coast, Queensland, during September 2002. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES DSH behaviour, including descriptions of the last act, psychological symptoms, recent stressors, coping styles, help-seeking behaviour, lifestyle choices, and self-prescribing of medications. RESULTS 233 students (6.2%) met the criteria for DSH in the previous 12 months, with DSH more prevalent in females than males (OR, 7.5; 95% CI, 5.1-10.9). The main methods were self-cutting (138 respondents; 59.2%) and overdosing with medication (69 respondents; 29.6%). Factors associated with DSH included similar behaviours in friends or family, coping by self-blame, and self-prescribing of medications. Most self-harmers did not seek help before or after their most recent action, with those who did primarily consulting friends. CONCLUSIONS DSH is common in Australian youth, especially in females. Preventive programs should encourage young people to consult health professionals in stressful situations.