Women in the Armed Forces are almost twice as likely to self-harm as their male counterparts, figures from the Ministry of Defence have revealed.
According to the data, 5.4 females per 1,000 record deliberate self-harm (DSH) events, compared to 2.9 males.
While under-20s are the most likely age group with 12.5 incidents per 1,000, a real-world equivalent of 98 people in 2017-18.
The next highest rate was 6.1 for 20 to 24-year-olds, followed by 3.0 for 25-29 year-olds.
Untrained service personnel were twice as likely as their trained counterparts to self-harm, with 5.9 incidents per 1,000 compared to three for trained personnel.
However, overall rates among UK Armed Forces personnel remains low, equating to 0.3% of UK military personnel.
The rate has risen by one person per 1,000 since 2010/11.
A number of “high risk” groups can be identified from the data including females, untrained personnel and those in the Army.
The figures also showed the Army had the highest rate of DSH across all three UK Forces.
In 2017/18 the Army had a rate of 4.0 per 1,000 people, compared to 2.2 for the Navy and 1.5 for the RAF.
The Army has consistently had the highest rate of DSH episodes since 2010/11.
The MoD said: “We have increased spending on mental health to £22 million a year, and have set up a 24/7 mental health helpline so there is always somewhere to turn in times of crisis.”
“This finding is also in line with literature available on the general population where females are more likely to present with mental health problems compared to males.
“It is suggested this is because females are likely to have more interactions with health professionals than males.
“While rates of self-harm in the Armed Forces remain lower than the general population, at 0.3%, we are not complacent and encourage anyone struggling to come forward and access the care they deserve.”
The MoD acknowledged there were “known difficulties” in accurately recording episodes of DSH due to the “associated stigma”.
However, over the last few years, in line with the increase in recorded episodes, they have stepped up their mental health services.
Combat Stress, a veterans’ mental health charity, began operating the helpline on behalf of the MoD in February 2018.
Sue Freeth, chief executive of Combat Stress, said: “More than 1,200 calls were made to the helpline last year.
“This is fantastic news as it shows that servicemen and women understand the importance of seeking help for mental health conditions.
“With demand continuing at around 100 calls a month to the helpline, I hope servicemen and women will keep phoning us to get the support they need.”
The MoD said the DSH data “counts each individual with a self harm record once per year to reflect the number of personnel who self harm in the Armed Forces”.
Chairman of the Defence Committee Julian Lewis said: “The increasing rate of self-harm events in serving personnel clearly shows that the Armed Forces still need to do more encourage servicemen and women to come forward to seek help for issues such as mental health problems before they self-harm, particularly within those groups that are potentially at higher risk.
“As the Defence Committee reported last summer, although there have been improvements, stigma over mental health and the failures in the provision of care continue to dissuade serving personnel from seeking help.
“We expect to report soon on what the MoD has been doing to tackle these issues as part of our follow-up inquiry into the provision of mental health care for serving personnel and veterans.”