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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 51 (2009) 9, 629 - 640

New research

Self harm in adolescents in Flanders

L. Van Rijsselberghe, G. Portzky, C. van Heeringen

background Deliberate self harm is an important precursor to suicide. Little is known about the epidemiology and circumstances of self harm behaviour that cannot be treated with medication.
aim To use international data in order to obtain insight into the prevalence, the circumstances and possible ways of presenting self harm in adolescents in the general population in Flanders.
method With the frameworks of the Child and Adolescent Self Harm in Europe (case)- study 4500 Flemish adolescents were asked to complete an anonymous self-report questionnaire.
results 10.4% of the adolescents questioned admitted to having engaged in self harm on one or more occasions during their life. 7% (males 4.1%, females 10.1%) reported they had engaged in self harm during the past year. Self harm seemed to be strongly associated with a family history of self harm, physical ill-treatment and sexual abuse. Adolescents seldom sought help from adults and hardly ever from professional care workers.
conclusions Deliberate self harm is more common in Flanders than in other countries participating in the case-study. Flanders needs to set up a school-based prevention campaign and should take steps to lower the barriers that currently stop adolescents from seeking professional help.


keywords adolescents, deliberate self harm, epidemiology, prevention