Self-Harm Figures among Adolescents Show Gaps in Scottish Mental Care

Rates of diagnoses of various mental health concerns may prove alarming to many clinicians and others in the mental health fields, and when such diagnoses affect children, the alarm may be especially prominent. A significant issue in terms of client safety and well-being, self-harm usually grabs the attention of therapists and mental health workers, and self-harm among children is a major concern which many modern protocols and techniques work towards preventing and resolving. Recently, Scotland learned that its rates of self-harm among children and adolescents under the age of sixteen was declining from a turn of the century peak, the numbers are still significant, and many cases may be repeat clients-–a clue that current treatment methods aren’t optimal.

The information was delivered in the form of a report from data collected by the agency Audit Scotland from 1999 – 2009, and noted that over seven thousand hospital admissions for children affected by self-harm were recorded during this period. Though Scotland has implemented new initiatives and funding avenues for the mental health field, commentators have noted that services for the very young as well as the very old have remained considerably under-funded and under-staffed, and many people may have difficulty reaching after-hours or crisis-centered services. Lawmakers have noted that increased funding is excepted to flow to national therapy and mental health services in the next two to three years, some of which would likely go towards improving treatment for children struggling with self-harm issues.

But with a primary goal of the funding set at lowering the maximum waiting time for treatment to twenty six weeks, some may wonder whether the new measures will be enough to significantly lower incidences of self-harm among Scotland’s children.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • georgia


    January 26th, 2010 at 9:53 AM

    there offer to be an even distribution of health care across a geographical location…you cannot have disparities…

  • jack


    January 26th, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    thanks for bringing this kind of situation to light .The reading was really helpful.

  • A.cooper


    January 26th, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    I completely agree with georgia.

  • Stuart A. Kaplowitz, MFT

    Stuart A. Kaplowitz, MFT

    January 26th, 2010 at 1:23 PM

    It is amazing though how some will seriously question and even abstain from appropriately treating children because they fear putting a label on the child (say the child is genuinely depressed). Stuart

  • Teach


    January 26th, 2010 at 6:45 PM

    It’s better to label the child than have them go untreated! To do otherwise is cowardice.

  • Elizabeth R.

    Elizabeth R.

    January 26th, 2010 at 7:49 PM

    My nephew did this and had been doing so for three years before he was caught. He said it was his way of letting out his anger. I was shocked and will never understand why. The boy was well looked after and well loved: what did he have to be angry about? All we knew to do was get him help. Anyway, he went into therapy and is doing well.

  • Sugarlove


    January 26th, 2010 at 9:12 PM

    What most adults don’t appreciate is how prevalent it is. Misguided teens see cutting as a cool thing to do. Goths are very into it. They show off their scars to their buddies like a badge of honor.

  • Neil


    January 26th, 2010 at 9:43 PM

    Go to MySpace and you’ll find groups devoted to self-harm and members talking about it. Don’t think this just happens in Scotland.

  • Ginny


    January 27th, 2010 at 5:38 AM

    Any time that we can get those numbers going down that is a good sign- but the work does not stop here. Obviously there is still critical work to be done in this area, not just in Scotland but in other parts of the world as well. Although we may not know yet what motivates these children to harm themselves and to continue to do so even after treatment it is imperative that we do more to make sure that the numbers do not go on the rise again and that we do what we can to make those safe who are currently being treated for this illness. There are so many ways of expressing ourselves that does not make sense to others but seems perfectly normal to those who are experiencing it first hand. Now is the time to get into the minds of these kids to help them and keep them safe.

  • Dionne S.

    Dionne S.

    January 27th, 2010 at 11:26 PM

    Do these cutters have no conception of the dangers in doing that? They could cut themselves deep enough to need the wound stitched or suffer an infection from the open wound. It’s not smart and it’s not clever.

  • Belle


    January 27th, 2010 at 11:34 PM

    No it’s not. However we need to remember that some do this as a way of expressing inner pain they struggle to voice any other way and it’s a form of relief. Have a little compassion here.

  • Judy W

    Judy W

    January 28th, 2010 at 5:43 AM

    I don’t understand the method behind the madness of self harm. What gets into these kids head that tells them that cutting and other forms of hurting themselves is going to make everything better? I know I’m old and this is something that is new to my radar screen but I do wish that I had a better understanding of the situation. In the past if suicide ever came up as a topic I always thought about the person who took his life being so selfish, but now that it is happening more frequently with younger kids I just have a desire to know what is going on here.

  • Rosalee


    February 1st, 2010 at 6:40 PM

    Belle posted “No it’s not. However we need to remember that some do this as a way of expressing inner pain they struggle to voice any other way and it’s a form of relief. Have a little compassion here.”

    I can’t reconcile the idea of hurting myself deliberately with relief, Belle. If I found out a friend was doing this, I’d be devastated that she couldn’t confide in me rather than self-injure. That’s a sobering thought.

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