Rise in over-60s who self-harm

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THERE has been a sharp rise in the number of over-60s hospitalised for self-harm in the Lothians.

Figures revealed in the Scottish Parliament show that 109 people were admitted with a diagnosis of intentional self-harm in 2010-11, compared to 89 the previous year, and 83 the year before that.

They don’t include people treated solely in A&E, or incidents where the person died before reaching hospital.

The figures were revealed in answer to a question by Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP, and showed that almost 2000 people over the age of 60 had been hospitalised for self-harm across Scotland over the past three years.

She said: “A recent study by the British Medical Journal showed that older people who self-harm are three times as likely to take their own life than are younger people who self-harm, and recommended that patients visiting A&E under these circumstances were fully assessed before being discharged.”

Carolyn Roberts, Head of Policy and Campaigns at the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), said: “Contrary to popular belief, self-harm isn’t just an issue for young people. Later in the year SAMH will be publishing research showing that the reasons people self-harm vary from coping with pressure, feeling a release or calming down: for some people self-harm is a coping strategy.

“It’s possible that people turn to self-harm if they’re struggling to get help any other way. Today SAMH launched a new campaign, Know Where to Go, that aims to help people get help for their mental health.”

Lorna Martin, NHS Lothian’s Chief Nurse for the Royal Edinburgh Hospital and its associated services said: “There are people from all age groups who will self harm. In older people this can be associated with illnesses such as depression or dementia. Factors such as the current economic climate and the loss of a long term partner can also affect people.

“NHS Lothian follows best practice guidelines to admit someone who has attended hospital as a result of self harm to ensure a full assessment of the patient’s well being can be carried out and follow up treatment planned.”

Doug Anthoney, communication and campaigns officer for Age Scotland, said: “This appalling figure is sadly not a surprise, with one in seven older people in Scotland affected by depression. Age Scotland is particularly concerned that loneliness among older people will increase as public sector cuts start to bite and clubs and services that keep them socially connected either stop or become unaffordable.”