More than one in 10 adolescents has deliberately harmed themselves, researchers have found.
Self-harm is linked to depression
The study, commissioned by the Samaritans and conducted by the Centre for Suicide Research at Oxford University, found youngsters were more likely to harm themselves if they had friends who had already done so.
Each year in the UK more than 24,000 teenagers are admitted to hospital after deliberately harming themselves.
The research is the first large scale, anonymous survey on the subject to have been carried out in the UK.
In total, more than 6,000 pupils aged 15 and 16 were quizzed from 41 schools across England.
They were asked about suicidal thoughts and self-harming behaviour.
The survey found that young people who harm themselves often have difficulty coping with everyday problems.
Lack of support
Rather than employing positive strategies such as talking to someone about the situation, they were more likely to blame themselves, sit in their room or drink alcohol.
They also felt that they had fewer people to turn to for help.
For example, only 20% of those who self harmed felt they could speak to a teacher about something that was really bothering them.
People who self-harm were shown by the survey to be more anxious, depressed and to have lower self esteem than those who do not.
The two most common reasons for self-harming are "to find relief from a terrible state of mind" and "because I wanted to die".
Few said they were trying to "frighten someone" or to
The most common problems faced by the pupils related to schoolwork, followed by difficulties with parents.
Other findings from the survey include:
- Only a small proportion - 13% - of self-harm episodes result in a hospital visit
- The favoured method is cutting or overdosing
- Girls were nearly four times as likely to engage in self-harm as boys
Simon Armson, Samaritans chief executive, said: "The results of the survey provide a real insight, from the young person's perspective, of why young people self-harm.
"We hope that this will not only inform our work, but also help other experts working alongside young people to understand more about this issue.
"We hope that by working together that we can develop practical responses and new ways of supporting vulnerable people at risk of self-harm and of dying by suicide."
The charity is developing an emotional health promotion programme to be rolled out later this year.
It will try to help young people to express their feelings and find new ways to cope with and seek help for their problems.
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity Sane, said: "Sadly these findings do not surprise us.
"Results from our own research
shows that while over half of those who self-harm were on medication, less
that a fifth were receiving counselling or therapy.
"Clearly, the underlying reasons for people self-harming are not being addressed."