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What We Can Learn From Declining Teen Self-Harm Rates in Denmark

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Teen self-harm: rates have dramatically decreased in Denmark – here’s what other countries can learn

by Sarah Steeg for The Conversation

DENMARK — Having better access to mental health support could be one reason for lower self-harm rates among Danish teens. Concern has been growing over rising rates of self-harm in teenagers.

In the UK and Ireland, increases began around the time of the 2008 economic crash and show no sign of slowing . One study of the UK found rates among teenage girls rose by two-thirds between 2011 and 2014.

But some surprising new findings suggest that stress caused by recession and financial uncertainty does not necessarily lead to rises in suicidal behavior. My colleagues and I examined rates of teenagers treated in hospital for self-harm in Denmark. Contrary to expectations, we found that rates of self-harm in Danish teenagers actually fell between 2008 and 2016.

Although Denmark experienced an economic recession, why didn’t rates of self-harm among teenagers see a similar spike as in other countries?

Our study analysed Danish national patient registers, which contain data on individuals treated in hospitals and outpatient departments in Denmark. Such population-level registers are unique to Scandinavian countries. The registers allowed us to look at the numbers of young people attending hospital or outpatient clinics after having self-harmed and compare them against all teenagers of the same age in Denmark.

We found that the rates of self-harm in young people living in Denmark aged between ten and 19 decreased each year between 2008 and 2016. The rate decreased by more than 40% from the beginning to the end of the study period. This pattern was seen in younger and older teenagers and in both girls and boys.

It has long been accepted that economic recession is associated with increases in suicide rates. Suicidal behavior is undoubtedly a highly personal experience, but the way that society can influence it has been recognised as early as the late 19th century. Following the most recent global recession in 2008, increased rates of suicide and self-harm were seen across Europe and North America.

In Ireland, rates of self-harm among teenagers increased by 22% between 2007 and 2016. In the UK, the government’s response to the recession was to impose austerity measures. This resulted in cuts to government spending on healthcare, unemployment benefits and social services, all of which have a proven negative impact on mental health and well-being.

But free universal healthcare, widespread access to unemployment programs and increased welfare spending during recession can soften the blow of financial hardship. In line with findings from the UK, we found that the highest rates of self-harm were among teenagers from the poorest households.

But our research found that, even for these teenagers, rates fell between 2008 and 2016. While we can only speculate about the causes of the fall in rates, Denmark appears to have protected its most vulnerable young people from rises experienced by other countries.

Of course, adolescents will be affected by economic recession – but, being less directly affected by the job market, they’re unlikely to experience it in the same way as adults. However, there are a number of other factors that are likely to exacerbate self-harming behaviors, such as pressure at school, difficulties at home, or mental health issues such as depression or anxiety – but certain measures can also protect teenagers’ mental health, which may be especially important during economic upheaval when populations are more vulnerable.

Social media pressures

While social media pressure may be particularly intense for teenagers, frequently voiced concerns that it might cause harm to mental health and well-being may be overstated. One study found that most social media content concerning self-harm was positive.

The study found that social media was mostly used as a platform to process difficult emotions creatively and share stories of recovery – rather than to promote self-harming behaviors. Social media also has the potential to increase awareness about seeking help for mental health problems – but this would only reduce self-harm rates if mental health support was available and accessible for young people.

Social media might actually provide much-needed support for teens. Grzegorz Placzek/ Shutterstock

More availability and better access to mental health support might be one reason for lower rates of self-harm in Denmark. Since 2007, suicide prevention clinics have been offering psychosocial therapy across Denmark for people at risk of suicide. The program was introduced gradually from 1992 and expanded to cover the whole country. These clinics have been found to have positive effects on reducing self-harm and suicide.

Yet, in many parts of the world, adolescents struggle to access mental health services. Evidence from the UK shows that teenagers from the most deprived neighborhoods are more likely to self-harm yet are less likely to receive mental health treatment.

Denmark has also taken steps to regulate sales of common painkillers to under-18s. In many parts of the world, including the UK, there’s been a sharp rise in the number of young adults who have overdosed on painkillers and antidepressants. Tougher regulations of these common painkillers might help to delay access – and research has shown that even a small delay in accessing a suicide method can be enough to halt the act.

Having access to health and welfare services, alongside good social connections within societies, can help reduce the prevalence of self-harm – especially during difficult economic times. Places that young people spend time in – such as schools, colleges, universities and health services – can also offer opportunities for social connection.

Social media that encourages social connections could also help young people build more resilience and better manage uncertainties such as a poor job market and financial insecurity. Better funding for mental health services may also be able to help protect younger populations from the harmful effects of economic turmoil and other stresses.

Sarah Steeg is a Presidential Research Fellow at the University of Manchester .

The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.

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Public Health Updates From LA County on Novel Coronavirus

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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recently hosted a press briefing to provide an update on the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and the interagency work being done to identify and assess travelers who may have been exposed to the virus.
 
A significant number of resources across Los Angeles County are focused on protecting the public’s health at large,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health.

“To date, there have been no reported coronavirus cases in LA County and currently the risk of local transmission is low according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We will keep everyone informed as more information becomes available. We are urging the public to remain calm, as it is very unlikely that they are at risk of contracting this virus,” she added.
 
The CDC announced the first case in the United States on January 21, 2020. Recently, hundreds of cases of pneumonia associated with a novel coronavirus in Wuhan City have been identified.

Public Health will continue assisting the CDC to ensure that travelers who may have visited Wuhan City that have a fever or respiratory illness symptoms are appropriately screened, tested and receive care. Travelers who have visited Wuhan City who are not ill upon their arrival to the LA County are advised to contact a healthcare provider and seek care if they become ill while here.

While there is no cure for this virus, hospital partners and clinical providers are able to test and care for ill travelers to minimize transmission and treatment for symptoms.
 
Health care professionals have been reminded to use meticulous infection control practices at all times.  Public Health will continue to provide updated information about the diagnosis and management of cases of novel coronavirus to health care providers and all hospitals in the County in an effort to identify and contain any future cases.

About Coronavirus

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning that they cause infections that usually exist exclusively in animals but can be transmitted to humans. However, some coronaviruses are also able to be transmitted from person to person, like SARS and MERS, while others are not.

While there is no specific cure for infections caused by the novel coronavirus, hospital partners and clinical providers are able to provide care for symptoms caused by the infection. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing

People who have traveled to Wuhan, China since December 1, 2019, could have been exposed to the virus. Seek medical care if you traveled to Wuhan and develop a fever and fever or respiratory symptoms within 14 days of your return. We want to underscore that there is no need to exclude anyone who has traveled to or from Wuhan City, or China in general, unless they are symptomatic, at which time they should seek a medical evaluation.
 
There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with this novel coronavirus, and investigations are ongoing in China and at least five other countries.
 
For more information about 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) visit  publichealth.lacounty.gov, or call 2-1-1.


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LA Public Defender Leads $1.2 Million Grant to Help Mentally Ill

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LOS ANGELES — The LA County Public Defender’s Office is the lead agency for a $1.2 million grant to divert people suffering from mental illness out of jail and into treatment.

LA County has been awarded the two-year grant from the MacArthur Foundation to directly address the over-incarceration of the mentally ill.

Los Angeles County operates the world’s largest jail system and its jails remain critically overcrowded. One of the main drivers of the local jail population is the incarceration of the mentally ill.

The grant will allow the Public Defender’s Office, working with other County and City agencies, to expand pre-plea diversion for those in custody as a result of a mental disorder. The effort will work toward breaking the cycle from medical and mental health facilities to custody, with a focus on the homeless population.

“Mentally ill people do not belong in jails,” LA County Public Defender Ricardo D. García said. “The startup funding provided by the MacArthur Foundation represents a substantial opportunity to mitigate the counterproductive use of criminal courts and jails as holding centers for the mentally ill men, women and children of Los Angeles County.”

This new initiative will include embedding mental health professionals in high volume courtrooms, same-day assessments of defendants who appear to suffer from a mental health disorder, and the pre-plea release and diversion of qualifying individuals into mental health treatment programs.

To help guide the launch of this program, the initiative will utilize provisions of AB 1810, a state law enacted in 2018 that allows pre-plea diversion for some defendants with mental health needs.

Partner agencies in this endeavor include the Los Angeles County Alternate Public Defender; Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office; Department of Mental Health; Sheriff’s Department; Department of Probation; Department of Public Health; Health Agency Departments; County Counsel’s Bail Reform Team; Project 180, with support from the Superior Court.

The $1.2 million MacArthur grant will go toward diverting people suffering from mental illness out of jails and into treatment.

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L.A. Teachers Sue Delta Airlines for Fuel Dump on Elementary School

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L.A. Teachers Sue Delta Airlines for Fuel Dump on Elementary School

LOS ANGELES — Delta Airlines just got hit with a lawsuit because one of its jets allegedly dumped fuel on an L.A. elementary school.

Video showed Delta flight 89, a Boeing 777 bound for China, turning back to LAX Tuesday to make an emergency landing, and spewing fuel as it went in preparation for landing. Unfortunately, that fuel ended up dousing children at Park Avenue Elementary in the city of Cudahy, CA.

Four teachers at the school have hired Gloria Allred to take on Delta. In the suit, obtained by TMZ, they say the pilot was asked by air traffic control if there was a need to dump fuel before landing … and the pilot said no.

The suit alleges the pilot dumped the fuel without notifying the control tower … and the big problem is … it was done at an altitude of about 2,000 feet. According to docs, that’s simply too low to allow the fuel to evaporate before it reaches the ground — it should be done at 5,000 feet or higher.

In the suit, the teachers say their clothes, flesh and eyes were coated in jet fuel — and it also got into their mouths. They say they had trouble breathing and needed medical treatment.

They’re suing Delta for negligence … and seeking damages.

Tune in to TMZ on TV weekdays Monday through Friday (check syndicated/local listings)


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