Calls for action as figures show 60,000 self-harm
THE number of people self-harming is on the rise, with as many as 60,000 people self-harming every year, a major conference on suicide has heard.
But less than one in six of those who are self-harming are seeking medical attention.
It has also emerged that the level of attention they receive varies greatly between hospitals.
According to research, an estimated 10pc of people who self-harm go on to die by suicide, delegates were told at the 14th annual conference of the Irish Association of Suicidology in Sligo.
The greatest risk is among teenage girls with one in every 150 adolescent girls showing up at hospitals every year having deliberately self-harmed.
However, according to the National Suicide Research Foundation, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
"Research in schools tells us that approximately 90pc of teenage girls who self-harm do not go to hospital so the figures are in fact much higher.
"We have a national suicide prevention strategy but it's a real challenge for the services. Most cases are unknown to people and even unknown to families," said researcher Paul Corcoran.
Speaking at the event, patron of the association President Mary McAleese described the harsh reality of suicide, attempted suicide and self-harming behaviour as a serious public health problem.
But she praised the work that was being done to challenge what she described as "unscientific and ignorant attitudes to homosexuality" that made many young people vulnerable to suicidal behaviour.
She also pointed to the rise in suicide figures last year as an indicator of the challenging economic times.
"Financial pressures, unemployment, poor employment prospects do not create a healthy human backdrop," she said.