On Wednesday May 1st we were delighted to welcome over 50 delegates to the third research seminar in our 2019 series of CHAD seminars, which focused on self-harm in young people. Self-harm is a common issue in young people. Lifetime prevalence rates of self-harm in the UK has been estimated at around 18%, but data on hospital admissions for self-harm suggest that it is most common in 15–24-year-olds, and particularly females. As well as a wider public health issue, self-harm in young people is a growing local concern. Public Health England (PHE) data indicated that in Stoke-on-Trent, rates of hospital admissions of self-harm for 15-24 year olds are now significantly higher than the national average (in 2016/17) and those of the nearest ‘statistical neighbours’.
Those attending the research seminar represented a great mix of academics, professionals from the NHS, local authority and third sector organisations, and public. The audience heard about the local context in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, from Paula Wilman (Stoke-on-Trent City Council) and Vicky Rowley (Staffordshire County Council) in terms of the scale of the problem and recent increases, before CHAD researchers Fiona McCormack and Sian Parry presented data to understand the nature of, and possible reasons for, the apparent rise in local hospital admissions for self-harm in young people. Dr Faraz Mughal, GP and NIHR In-Practice Fellow with Keele University, then presented findings from a systematic review and introduced his qualitative work around the potential role of primary care in identifying and managing self-harm.
The discussion that followed the presentations was used to identify some priorities for research and practice, with members of the audience also sharing their own experiences of some of the challenges and opportunities. This included: the potential for social prescribing and the need to ensure there are activities available, acknowledgement that ‘social’ may not be for everyone, understanding and managing the transition from CAMHS to adult services, a lack of confidence and training for health care professionals about how to speak to people in crisis, and what action to then take, and the variable length of GP appointments in different areas (with some reported to be very short) that can limit the potential to engage in discussions to mitigate self-harm risk in young people. The impact of recent funding cuts was underlined throughout the discussion.