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1-in-4 girls, 1-in-10 boys report self-injury or attempt suicide due to fighting, bullying or forced sex

Adolescents were more likely to report deliberate self-injury if they noted being sad or thinking about or attempting suicide. Drug and alcohol use were also associated with self-injury, as was fighting, being electronically bullied, or having experienced forced sex.

One in four (1 in 4) high school girls will deliberately injure themselves by methods as extreme as cutting themselves or burning their own skin, and about one in 10 high school boys deliberately hurt themselves without trying to kill themselves.

This is according to a new study from the University of Portland released in the American Journal of Public Health. Frank Deryck, M.A. initiated this study. Co-writers included Martin Monto, Ph.D. and Nick McRee, Ph.D.

Consistent with other studies, adolescents were more likely to report deliberate self-injury if they noted being sad or thinking about or attempting suicide. Drug and alcohol use were also associated with self-injury, as was fighting, being electronically bullied, or having experienced forced sex.

The study, the first of its kind to use weighted probability sampling, revealed significantly high levels of deliberate, non-suicidal self-injury among large, representative, non-clinical samples of high school students (n=64,671). The study used data from the Centers for Disease Control from 11 states in the US collected in 2015. Individual states had substantially different rates of self-injury, with boys ranging from 6.4% (Delaware) to 14.8% (Nevada) and girls from 17.7% (Delaware) to 30.8% (Idaho).

Among the patterns the study revealed was that the behavior was more commonly reported among 14-year olds and diminished with age. Rates were higher among students identifying as Native American, Hispanic, or Whites than they were among those identifying as Asian or Black.

The findings are timely, as public concern with adolescent mental health has grown. Additionally, though deliberate self-injury is different than suicide, persons who self-injure are also more likely to consider and attempt suicide.

The authors argue that self-injury among adolescents is so widespread that clinical and therapeutic interventions may be insufficient to address this public health problem. Since many other health risk behaviors are associated with self-injury, efforts to address the problem should be incorporated into broader efforts to address mental health among children and adolescents.

A study done in 2012 actually also similarly noted that female students are more likely to have suicide behavior. In the Philippines, for instance, they are more likely to have suicide ideation than Indonesian students. However, Indonesian students with suicidal ideation were more likely to express their ideation by making a suicide plan (53.5%) compare to the counterparts (40.6%). Psychosocial factors, gender and school grade are important factors in students’ suicide behavior. Therefore, policy strengthening in counseling in the junior high schools is needed to prevent suicide.

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