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Self-harm has more than doubled over the last two decades in NSW and young women are doing it at a rate three times greater than their male counterparts, according to the Pathways Foundation.

Michael Baigent is a Board Director at Beyond Blue, an initiative providing support for depression and related conditions. As an Associate Professor and Psychiatrist, he has not seen a noticeable increase in young women approaching him for help. But, he has observed that support services can be gendercentric. “We tend to see more treatment services for a particular group of women: those who self-
harm repetitively and with a degree of severity,” he said.

One reason for this, according to Mr Baigent, may be because men externalise their background of trauma and abuse, rather than turn it to themselves. As such, there are more reported cases of female self-harm, particularly those aged 15 to 24.

Factors that could encourage self-harm include: depression and mental illness, conditions which most often emerge from ages 15-24, or copying peers and bullying, particularly for younger generations.

According to Headspace, 1 in 8 young people have experienced bullying.

Professor Ian Hickie, Executive Director of the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Research institute said: “It’s not just about bullying, it’s about fitting in and being accepted, experiencing depression and feeling anxious.”

Explaining the age range, Mr Baigent said: “Self-harming in teenagers could be habitual, but when they get into their mid-20s, particularly women, don’t like the physical scars. They may have established careers or relationships and be in a happier place.”