The early warning signs of self harm

23 July 2021

Researchers have identified two distinct subgroups among young people who self-harm, with risk factors showing as early as age five. It may therefore be possible to predict which individuals are most at risk of self-harm up to a decade ahead of time.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, found that while both groups were likely to experience sleep difficulties and low self-esteem at age 14, other risk factors differed.

The first group showed a long history of poor mental health, as well as bullying. The second group were harder to predict, but a key sign was more risk-taking behaviour.

Co-author Duncan Astle said: ‘Boosting younger children’s self-esteem, making sure that schools implement anti-bullying measures, and providing advice on sleep training could all help reduce self-harm levels years later.’

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