THERE has been a huge surge in the number of young people turning up to hospital after self-harming in Reading, Wokingham and West Berkshire. 

The rate of people self-harming locally is above the UK average and has been described as a “national outlier” by an NHS boss. 

The increase has only happened in the past five years, before then it was in line with the national average.

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Andy Fitton, from Berkshire West clinical commissioning group — which covers Reading, Wokingham and West Berkshire — raised concerns at a meeting on January 30. 

Mr Fitton said: “We have seen a significant increase in self-harm rates at the hospital for the age groups between 10 to 24 but particularly for 15 to 19 year olds. That’s true of all three local authorities.”

He raised the concerns at the health and wellbeing board at West Berkshire Council.

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Mr Fitton added: “It’s a national outlier and something that we are very concerned about.”

His concerns were echoed by Matt Pearce, head of public health at the council, who said: “Self-harm is one area we benchmark quite poorly in West Berkshire.”

According to the Samaritans, who offer support nationally, self-harm is more common among young people, and particularly women, posing a higher risk of suicide.

It is unclear the reasons driving the big rise in young people self-harming in Reading, West Berkshire and Wokingham.

Asking Mr Fitton, Councillor Martha Vickers (Lib Dem, Newbury Central) said: “I wondered if you had any comment about why we have such high levels of self-harm here, which is against the national trend?”

However, she also asked two other separate questions — and Mr Fitton answered these but did not respond to the question about self-harm. 

In a report to the health and wellbeing board, Mr Fitton said: “The biggest jump was in Reading. Prior to 2015–16, all three local authorities were below or in line with the national average.”

After the meeting, Cllr Vickers said: “It’s a very serious issue we should be caring about. 

“Where is this coming from? Is it a particular school that’s not dealing with bullying or social media harassment? Is it something to do with those issues are being managed?

“We do need to get to grips with this and find out [the reasons]. We should be addressing it. Possibly it’s a symptom that we need more resources dealing with young people’s mental health issues.”

You can call the Samaritans 24/7 for free on 116 123.