Rates of self-harm and suicidal behaviour are high among Australian teens. Among 14-15 year olds, one in ten reported that they had self-harmed in the previous 12 months, and 5% reported they had attempted suicide.
Girls appeared to be at greater risk than boys of both self-harm and suicidal behaviour. One in four girls had had thoughts about self-harming, and 15% had engaged in some form of self-harm. When it came to suicide, 12% of girls had thought about suicide in the past year, with 6% actually attempting suicide.
Among boys, 8% had thought about self-harm, and 4% had done it. With suicide, 6% of boys had thought about it, and 4% had made a suicide attempt. Boys were, however, much more likely to act impulsively and make an unplanned suicide attempt.
Self-harm and suicide do not happen in parallel, and often self-harm can act as a "gateway" to suicide. Of those who had attempted suicide, two thirds had previously self-harmed.
Some teens are more at risk of self-harm than others
- Teens who reported that they were same-sex attracted, bisexual, or unsure of their sexuality were at greater risk of self-harm than heterosexual teens.
- Teens with more reactive temperaments; those who had depression, anxiety or general feelings of unhappiness; and those who reported being threatened or feeling victimised by their peers because of their health, skin colour, sexual orientation, language, culture or religion were also at greater risk of self-harm.
- Teens had an elevated risk of suicide if they had self-harmed; were same-sex attracted, bisexual, or unsure of their sexuality; or if they had been involved in so-called "delinquent behaviour" such as crime or property offences.
The risk factors for suicide are similar, with sexual identity again featuring strongly in these dynamics
Overall, the findings highlight that preventative strategies should be directed towards young people, in order to increase their awareness of risk factors for themselves and also their peers, as well as increase awareness of the support services and other resources available. Programs to assist teachers and parents to appropriately assess the signs of self-harm and suicidal intent also could be of considerable benefit of reducing the overall disability burden of self-destructive behaviour in young people.