Page last updated at 17:43 GMT, Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Self-harm charities funding fears

bullied girl
Almost 14% of Scottish teenagers have self-harmed, according to the study

A Scottish mental health charity which helps children who self-harm has warned it may have to close because local authorities are withdrawing funding.

Penumbra said four of its six projects faced funding reductions.

It comes as research published in a medical journal found one in five girls in Scotland had self-harmed.

The Scottish Government said helping young people with mental health problems was a top priority for ministers, health boards and councils.

Projects that deal with youngsters who self harm had been given ring-fenced funding under the Labour-Lib Dem Scottish Executive, as part of efforts to cut Scotland's high suicide rate. Figures suggest about 40% of people who complete a suicide had self-harmed in the past.

But upon taking office, the SNP changed the funding arrangements under which the money given to local authorities was ring-fenced for certain priorities.

Local authorities now have more control over where they spend money given to them by the Scottish Government, providing they fulfil 15 'national priorities' set by the SNP.

But Penumbra blames this change for the cuts in funding for its projects around the country.

'Let down'

Fiona Downie, self harm development worker at Penumbra in West Lothian, said she was saddened by the withdrawal of funding.

Ms Downie, who faces redundancy, said: "I feel I'm letting everybody down. I'm very angry at not being able to continue the service and very sad that West Lothian is going to lose a very special service that's much needed."

Louise, 20, started self harming when she was 13-year-old. She said Penumbra helped her to cope.

She said: "It was a lot easier to talk to someone who can genuinely empathise with you, rather than someone who is just sympathetic."

Louise said she had already found it difficult when the service was recently scaled down.

She said: "It hasn't been good for me at all. I had to take a year out of uni for medical reasons, just because I couldn't cope with it by myself.

"I've felt really isolated because I can't really talk to anyone else."

The Scottish Government said it placed a high priority on helping young people with mental health problems.

A spokeswoman said: "The Scottish Government, local councils and NHS boards place a high priority on providing a wide range of services which support children and young people with mental health problems.

"Under our concordat with Cosla local authorities implement and allocate funding which best meet local needs and priorities."

Research by Stirling University, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found almost 14% of Scottish teenagers had self-harmed.

More than 2,000 youngsters, most aged 15 and 16, were questioned in Stirling and Glasgow for the study, carried out in 2007.

Girls were 3.4 times more likely to self-harm than boys and 38% of those doing it said that they wanted to die.

Common reasons for hurting themselves included being bullied, sexual abuse, worries about sexual orientation and boy or girlfriend trouble.



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SEE ALSO
Self-harmers 'include boys too'
16 Dec 08 |  Health
Teenage girls self-harm warning
25 Sep 07 |  Tayside and Central


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