More than 2000 South Yorkshire children self-harmed in just a year, shocking figures have revealed.
The annual Good Childhood Report by The Children’s Society, which examines the state of young people’s well-being in the UK, showed that 1560 girls and 670 boys had inflicted injuries on themselves within a 12-month period.
The data was based on a survey of youngsters collected in 2015 in the Millennium Cohort Study, a continuing research project following the lives of 19, 000 children born in the UK between 2000 and 2001.
Matthew Reed, chief executive at The Children’s Society, said: “It is deeply worrying that so many children are unhappy to the extent that they are self-harming.
“Worries about how they look are a big issue, especially for girls, but this report shows other factors such as how they feel about their sexuality and gender stereotypes may be linked to their unhappiness.”
Nationally, the report revealed nearly a quarter of girls aged 14 said they had self-harmed, while for boys it was one in ten.
In addition, almost half of 14-year-olds who said they had been attracted to people of the same gender or both genders said they had self-harmed.
Other reasons for self-harming – which can be the act of cutting, burning or punching oneself – included being unhappy at school and uncomfortable with their appearance.
Nearly a quarter said they heard jokes or comments about other people’s bodies or looks often, while more than a fifth of secondary school pupils said they had heard comments made about people’s sexual activity.
The research also suggests both boys and girls can be harmed by gender stereotypes and pressure to live up to these expectations.
Children felt under pressure from friends to be good looking but those who felt boys should be tough and girls should have nice clothes were least happy with life.
The report suggests that happiness with family relationships could be the best protection for children because it has the biggest positive influence on their overall well-being.
Mr Reed added: “It’s vital that children’s well-being is taken more seriously and that much more is done to tackle the root causes of their unhappiness and support their mental health.
“Schools can play an important part in this and that is why we want the Government to make it a requirement for all secondary schools to offer access to a counsellor, regularly monitor children’s well-being and have their mental health provision assessed as part of Ofsted inspections.
“Issues like appearance, gender stereotypes and sexuality should be included in the new Relationships and Sex Education curriculum.
“However, early support for vulnerable children and families in the community, which can help prevent mental health problems from developing, is also vital, and ministers must urgently address the £2bn funding shortfall facing council children’s services departments by 2020.”