Shocking new figures have revealed that levels of serious self-harm among children are far higher in Norfolk than elsewhere in the country.

The proportion of youngsters under the age of 14 ending up in the county's hospitals because of their injuries is more than a third higher than the national average.

The grim findings have sparked calls for youngsters to receive swifter intervention and concerns schools are being left to "pick up the slack" of struggling mental health services.

Public health bosses have said the hospital admission rate of 427 cases per 100,000 children in Norfolk is "significantly worse" than the national rate of 307.

The latest figures, from 2021/22, also show an upward trend in the county, with an increase of almost 60pc from 269 cases per 100,000.

The issue appears to be of particular concern among those in the 10-to-14 age group. In other age categories, Norfolk is much more in line with the rest of the country.

Rising levels of self-harm among children have caused alarm nationally. The issue has been linked to the impact of lockdowns, social media and a shortage of appropriate mental health care.

Experts say that sometimes it can be an 'infectious' element to the issue, with episodes of contagion as children copy what some of their peers are doing.

However, it is less clear why Norfolk's children appear to be suffering more than those from elsewhere.

One factor could be the travails of the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust, which has been named as the worst mental health trust in the country.

Other parts of the health service are also under immense strain locally.

It recently emerged that a child spent nine days in the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston waiting for a mental health bed to become available.

Eastern Daily Press: Emma Corlett, deputy leader of Norfolk Labour and a former mental health nurseEmma Corlett, deputy leader of Norfolk Labour and a former mental health nurse (Image: Emma Corlett)

Emma Corlett, Labour's deputy leader at County Hall and a former mental health nurse, said: "Early access to mental health support for children and the adults who support them is essential.

"For too many years in Norfolk that has proven difficult or impossible for too many asking for help, with distressing consequences for far too many.

"Often schools and families are expected to pick up the pieces, with little or no support themselves."

The latest figure shows a third consecutive year-on-year increase and the highest the rate has been since it was first reported in 2011/2.

David Jessup, operations lead at  Norfolk and Waveney Mind, said that 103 out of 528 young people referred to the charity since November 2022 had asked for support with self-harm - but that only 25 listed it as their primary issue.

He said: "We aim to provide young people with education and awareness of mental health signs and symptoms, giving them coping strategies and tools to combat current and future life challenges they may face."

The issue was highlighted by Suzanne Meredith, deputy director of public health in Norfolk, at a meeting of Norfolk and Waveney's integrated care partnership.

She said: "The rates for Norfolk are significantly worse than the England and regional averages.

"When you drill that down, it appears that the 10-14 age group is where we compare least favourably."

It comes at a time when an estimated one in six young people have a "probable mental health need" - with more than 1,300 young people in Norfolk waiting for assessments.

A spokesman for the Norfolk and Waveney integrated care system said: "Our analysis on self-harm will feed into a prevention strategy and action plan.

"This is a complex issue - linked to a range of socio-economic factors.

"In addition, young people who are struggling with their mental health can access support from Kooth, through ChatHealth and through the NHS 111 number."


According to the NSPCC, signs that your child may be self-harming include:

  • Covering up, for example by wearing long sleeves a lot of the time, especially in summer;
  • Unexplained bruises, cuts, burns or bite-marks;
  • Blood stains on clothing, or finding tissues with blood in their room;
  • Becoming withdrawn and spending a lot of time alone in their room;
  • Avoiding friends and family and being at home;
  • Feeling down, low self-esteem or blaming themselves for things;
  • Outbursts of anger, or risky behaviour like drinking or taking drugs.


The charity lists a number of things you can do to support your child.

Instead of simply asking a child to stop self-harming, the NSPCC says it can be helpful to suggest ways to help them cope.

These can include:

  • Painting, drawing or scribbling in red ink;
  • Holding an ice cube in your hand until it melts;
  • Writing down negative feelings then rip the paper up;
  • Wearing an elastic band on your wrist and snapping it every time you feel the urge to self-harm;
  • Listening to music;
  • Punching or screaming into a pillow;
  • Talking to friends or family;
  • Taking a bath or shower;
  • Exercise;
  • Watching a favourite funny film.