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  1. ITV Report

Rise in teenagers who self-harm as social media fuels nation of 'deeply unhappy' children, warns charity

Social media is helping to create a nation of "deeply unhappy" children, an increasing number of whom are self-harming, a charity has warned.

Almost 19,000 children were admitted to hospital for self-harm in 2015/16, according to data obtained from almost 150 NHS organisations.

Some 18,778 children and young people aged 11 to 18 were admitted to hospital in England and Wales, the data shows.

That is a 14% rise from the 16,416 admitted in 2013/14.

The data was obtained by National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) under a Freedom of Information Act request.

18,778
Number of young people aged 11-18 admitted to hospital in England and Wales for self-harm in 2015/16

Figures from the Childline helpline, which is run by the NSPCC, also showed it delivered 18,471 counselling sessions about self-harm last year - equivalent to 50 a day.

Dame Esther Rantzen, Childline's president, called the figures "deeply disturbing".

"Self-harming is at epidemic level among young people - at Childline we hear from them every day," she said.

18,471
Number of counselling sessions on self-harm delivered by Childline in 2015

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said that a "frightening number of children and teenagers" were resorting to self-harm to deal with stresses in their lives, saying these pressures were made worse by social media.

"It is clear from the thousands of calls Childline receives that we have a nation of deeply unhappy children," he said.

"We know this unhappiness is partly due to the constant pressure they feel, particularly from social media, to have the perfect life or attain a certain image which is often unrealistic.

"They tell us that the need to keep up with friends and the 24/7 nature of technology means they feel they can never escape or switch off, adding to the misery that many feel on a daily basis."

Dr Virginia Davies, chair of the child and family public engagement board at The Royal College of Psychiatrists, said the NSPCC's report highlighted "the real-life impact of underfunded mental health services for children and young people".

But the government said it was investing in mental health.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "We want children with mental health problems to get the help they need.

"That's why we are investing £1.4 billion to help every area in the country transform services for young people with all mental health conditions, including self-harm."