A new research study has confirmed that teens who self harm are much more likely to end up with substance abuse problems later in life. The study involved close to 5,000 participants, all of whom were 16 years old and who completed a detailed questionnaire. The teens in the study answered questions about whether they had ever engaged in self harm or if they had ever had thoughts of suicide. The lead researcher for the study, Bristol University researcher Dr. Becky Mars, commented “This is the first study to investigate outcomes amongst those with non-suicidal self-harm. We were quite surprised at just how high the risks were in relation to non-suicidal self-harm, given its high prevalence in the community.” Approximately 19% of the teens in the research study had a history of previous self harm, and few had sought out any professional help for this problem.
The research study followed the teen participants for 5 years, and verified that teens who self harm but who did not experience suicidal thoughts were at a greater risk of developing mental health issues and substance abuse problems. The results were published in the BMJ Journal. Dr. Mars continued by saying “There is widespread lack of understanding amongst health and teaching professionals about those who self-harm without intending to take their lives. It should not be dismissed or viewed as trivial, as it could be a warning sign for suicidal behavior or other problems later in life.” Parents who notice any self harm signs or indications of substance abuse in teens should seek professional help immediately.