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More Canadian girls inflicting self-harm, hospital admissions double

In 2013 to 2014, about 1,798 girls were hospitalized after intentionally poisoning themselves by taking prescription medication, chemical solvents or illegal drugs, but the report showed a 90-per-cent increase in the past five years of girls going to hospitals after cutting themselves.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

Thousands of Canadian girls are admitted to hospital every year from self-inflicted injuries – a number that has doubled in the last five years, according to a new report.

The data were gathered from medical facilities across the country and released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information on Tuesday.

They showed about 2,500 youth between ages 10 and 17 end up in hospital every year for self-harm injuries.

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And over the past five years, 7,372 girls – about four times more than boys – went to hospital for self-inflicted injuries.

"Boys and girls tend to express themselves in different ways," institute manager Juliana Wu said.

She said more girls are using physical pain to deal with mental and emotional distress.

In the past five years the number of hospital admittances for self-harm for girls increased 102 per cent to 2,037 in 2013-2014 from 1,009 in 2009-2010.

The number of cases of youth visiting the emergency departments for self-harm is even higher than the number of hospital admittances.

In Ontario there were 3,411 visits to the emergency room in 2013-2014.

In 2013 to 2014, about 1,798 girls were hospitalized after intentionally poisoning themselves by taking prescription medication, chemical solvents or illegal drugs, but the report showed a 90-per-cent increase in the past five years of girls going to hospitals after cutting themselves.

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Ms. Wu said parents need to look for signs of self-harm before it worsens.

"Possible signs are change in behaviours and lower performance in school. Look for scars. Young people may try to hide their scars by wearing long sleeves," she said.

Ms. Wu said self-harm isn't always a sign of potential suicide.

"There are recent studies that show it may or may not be suicide related," said Ms. Wu.

"However, young people who do harm themselves are more likely to suffer from a mental illness down the road.

"It's a challenge. We know that young people are doing this to themselves. We are looking for experts to look at this data. We want to hear from people," Ms. Wu said.

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"As a mother of two I want to make sure young people can find someone they can talk to and find support groups."

The report also tracked how many youth and children were admitted to hospital after being assaulted.

More than 500 youth, those under 18 years old, are admitted to the hospital every year because of an intentional assault, according to the report.

Two out of three intentional assault cases were for boys.

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