Experts say Australia needs to make a concerted effort to stop intentional self harm among children.

The call is made on the back of new data from the Australian Human Rights Commission, which says that self-harm, with or without suicidal intent, has increased in children and young people.

The data shows there is a 657 per cent 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.

There were 14 deaths in the 12-13 year age range and 106 deaths in the 14-15 year age range.

The Australian Human Rights Commission National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell says a national research agenda is needed to underpin policies and interventions for children and young people engaging in intentional self-harm.

“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.”

Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that between 2007-08 and 2012-13, there were 18,277 hospitalisations for intentional self-harm involving children and young people in the 3-17 year age range. Eighty-two per cent of these hospitalisations were for intentional self-poisoning.

The report identifies a number of areas where empirical evidence is lacking, including how and why children and young people engage in intentional self-harm, with or without suicidal intent; the psychological mechanisms underlying suicide clusters; the impact of protective factors; the impact of current interventions and support programs; and the effectiveness of post-vention services and gate-keeping training programs.

To find effective prevention and intervention strategies, we need regular and more detailed surveillance of death and hospitalisation due to intentional self-harm in children aged 4-17 years and a national research agenda”, Commissioner Mitchell said.

“The type of data released in my report today should be made available every year.
Without comprehensive surveillance of intentional self-harm in children, our prevention and early intervention strategies cannot be properly planned or evaluated”.

The Australian Human Rights Commission Children’s Rights Report 2014 is now available, at this website.

Anyone seeking more immediate assistance with issues of any kind is encouraged to contact one of the following services;

Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800
Lifeline on 13 11 14
headspace on 1800 650 890