Findings from a recent study suggest that programs and services that interface with people who self-harm should become more “culturally sensitive,” said researchers from the universities of Manchester and Oxford.
Out of nearly 15,000 people studied in the emergency departments of three cities, the study found that young, black women are highly more likely to self-harm than people from other races. The cities represented included Derby, Oxford and Manchester.
The rates for young, black women were consistently higher in all three cities. In Manchester alone, the rate for self-harm among black women was 10.3 per 1,000 compared to 6.6 per 1,000 for whites.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to show significantly higher rates of self-harm in young black females across a number of cities using large population-based databases, “said Dr. Jayne Cooper, of the Centre for Suicide Prevention at the University of Manchester and lead author of the research, adding that the results did not provide clear knowledge as to why young black females had higher rates.
Cooper suggested that the answer could rest with the fact that young black women appear to face a higher degree of social problems. Offering an example, she added that the study revealed that young black women were more likely to be unemployed or report housing problems than white women.
“We also found that people from ethnic minority groups who self-harmed were more likely to be students than their white counterparts, and so may be under academic pressure,” she said.
Comparatively, the rates were quite different for young, black men. Statistics revealed that both young, black and white men in the same three cities had similar rates of self-harm. The study also revealed that rates were lower for older, black men when compared to their white counterparts.
Statistics reveal that minority groups, including black people, are less likely to receive a thorough psychiatric assessment or access followup services after episodes of self-harm, making them more vulnerable to ongoing mental health issues.
Confirming that statistic, researchers with this study also found that young, black women were less likely to receive a specialist assessment or receive appropriate care with further episodes of self-harm.
“Despite the increased risk of self-harm in young black females, we found that fewer receive psychiatric care,” Cooper said, noting that they are often identified as ‘low risk’ for another attempt at self-harm.
Patients who self-harm are often considered high risk if they live by themselves, have used a substance in a previous self-harm attempt or have a prior history of self-harm. Cooper pointed out that many of the young, black women that presented during the study did not have these characteristics.
She added that, “they may also not communicate their distress to clinical staff as much, and be less likely to admit to depression. It has also been suggested that black and minority ethnic groups may find themselves disillusioned with the services they receive, and so be reluctant to return to hospital if they self-harm again.”
Cooper concluded that the findings of the study “have important implications” for the way services are provided to those who self-harm.
“The challenge is to make services more culturally sensitive, and ensure that everyone receives assessment and appropriate management following self-harm,” she said.
This new research is published in the September issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.