Credit: ScottCounseling

A study reveals that more than one in twenty Australian children deliberately harm themselves physically through cutting, burning or biting into their skin, within 12-month duration.

More than 12,000 Australians aged over ten took part in the telephone survey conducted by the University of Queensland - which is believed to be the world's biggest study of self-injury.

Just in the previous 12 months, the study found 5.4 per cent of 10 to 17-year-olds had engaged in self-harming without the intent to commit suicide.

A total of 2.6 per cent of people -across all age groups- said they had engaged in self-injury during the 12 months, including a man and a woman aged between 75 and 84.

The age group of 18 to 24 had the highest prevalence with seven per cent confessed to engaging self-injury in the last 12 months. 

Both sexes appear almost as likely to self-injure - cutting, being the most common method, followed by scratching, hitting a part of the body on a hard surface, punching themselves, biting and burning.

Nearly a third of those admitting to self-harming reported they never felt pain while engaging in the self-harming acts. The majority said they harmed themselves in order to regulate emotions, followed by a way to self-punish.

Self-harmers aged 18 and above were nearly six times more likely to report being the victims of sexual or physical abuse than other Australians, said lead researchers Graham Martin and Sarah Swannell.

They also were four times more likely to drink to get drunk, and six times more likely to report having mood disorders such as depression or anxiety.

The prevalence of self-injury was as high as depression, said Professor Martin, director of child and adolescent psychiatry of the University of Queensland.

He remarked, I don't want to be overly dramatic and call it an epidemic and yet, in many ways, it's at those epidemic proportions. 

Treatments of self-harming behaviors remained problematic.

Prof Martin said, We're all trying to see whether we can find a therapy that will work really well.

He said, therapy is a lengthy endeavor and that if they could start working in schools for preventative measures, it would be better.

Please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or SANE helpline on 1800 187 263 for support and guide about suicide prevention.