Published Thursday, 13 March 2014
The new research found that one in 10 young people in NI self-harms. (© UTV)
Past exposure to the Northern Ireland conflict and social media were found to be associated risk factors.
The findings were made during the first study of its kind to investigate the rate of self-harm among adolescents in Northern Ireland as well as the factors associated with self-harm.
The study, led by Professor Rory O'Connor at the University of Glasgow and funded by the Department of Health surveyed, 3,596 school pupils in Northern Ireland to ascertain the prevalence and factors associated with self-harm.
Alongside exposure to the Northern Ireland conflict and social media, established risk factors such as bullying, history of sexual and physical abuse, concerns about sexual orientation and drug and alcohol use were also associated with lifetime self-harm.
One in 10 young people reported that they had self-harmed at some stage in their lives, which is lower than elsewhere in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
Girls were found to be three and a half times more likely to engage in self-harm than boys.
The emotional and psychological legacy of the Northern Ireland conflict, as well as the influence of new technologies, are associated with self-harm among adolescents in Northern Ireland - and need to be addressed.
Professor Rory O'Connor
Researchers said the lower rate was unexpected given that the rates of hospital treated self-harm are high in Northern Ireland and the rates of mental disorders in Northern Ireland are among the highest in Europe.
They believe that the discrepancy is due to the fact that as a result of the conflict, young people in Northern Ireland are more reluctant to disclose personal information, masking the true extent of the problem.
Lead researcher and Chair in Health Psychology at the University of Glasgow, Professor Rory O'Connor said more research was required to understand the legacy of the Northern Ireland conflict and the influence of new technologies on the mental wellbeing of young people.
Professor Keith Hawton from University of Oxford and a co-author of the study added: "Increased understanding about the incidence of self-harm in adolescents in Northern Ireland and the factors that contribute to it as provided by the findings of this study are essential for the development of local prevention initiatives.
"In addition, the findings provide particularly valuable information about the influence of electronic and other media on self-harm in young people".
Welcoming the study, Health Minister Edwin Poots said: "This research enhances our understanding of self harm among our young people and, in particular, the influence that social media can have.
"These findings will inform the development of programmes for reducing self harm.
"Given the association between self harming behaviour and later suicide attempts, the findings will also be of great benefit in developing the new Suicide Prevention Strategy for Northern Ireland."
© UTV News