Sue's Blog

650% increase in deaths from self-harm and no mention of diet

Following release of the 2014 Child Rights Report and Self-harm increases among young Australian children, prompts research into youth help programs, the Food Intolerance Network wrote 9/12/2014 to Megan Mitchell, National Children’s Commissioner, as follows:


Dear Megan

Your 2014 Child Rights Report showed a staggering 650 per cent increase in deaths from self-harm, when comparing 12 and 13-year-olds with 14 and 15-year-olds, but in 240 pages there was no mention of diet. The only mention of diet in the entire 116 page report in 2013 was a single side-bar: "I think that all children and teenagers should have the right to have things that they really need like play, a healthy diet and an education" - 14 year old child from Victoria

Even Beyond Blue says "There's so much we don't know about what's effective," (Dr Brian Graetz, Beyond Blue's DCEO).

From the point of view of the 10,000 member Food Intolerance Network, self-harm is just one of many similar childhood problems such as head-banging, restless legs syndrome and asthma that have increased since the 1970s. In our experience, self-harm can be a side-effect of both medications and food chemicals and can improve dramatically on the science-based elimination diet developed by Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Allergy Unit.

Please spend a minute to check this factsheet which contains some fascinating reports from members about self harm, including the food diary of a 6-year-old self-harmer (story given below) 

We acknowledge that there are no reports in the medical literature of a link between self-harm and food intolerance. But if you are setting up a research agenda you need to ensure that this aspect is included in priorities.

Two related factsheets offer more detail including scientific references: 

We look forward to the opportunity to contribute towards reducing this dreadful problem.


Howard Dengate BSc PhD   

[390] Mixed depressive disorder with anxiety and obsessive ruminations including self harm due to salicylate sensitivity (March 2006)

My 6 ½ year old son, Tim (not his real name) is currently undergoing investigation of mixed depressive disorder with anxiety and obsessive ruminations. We have used failsafe in the past with one of our other children, but had not ever thought of foods being linked to Tim’s mood problems. When you mention a “gifted and depressed” child at your recent talk my ears immediately pricked up and took note. Tim has been identified as highly gifted and everyone has been saying that is the cause of his problems but I have always felt there was something else underlying that was contributing. We will be contacting our GP today and hopefully starting the elimination diet as soon as possible.

2 weeks later…

Just wanted to let you know, we are all amazed at our son's improvement over the last two weeks. I have been in contact with the dietitian you recommended, she is lovely and very supportive. We will be starting the "proper" 3 week elimination diet on the weekend after the school camp (couldn't manage that one!) But I wanted to tell you also that even my GP has taken to your book for herself and her family. She is raving about it!

2 months later …

Since starting the elimination diet Tim has not self harmed once! He is much calmer and has noticed this in himself. He no longer seems to be as restless and has been falling asleep easily at a reasonable time in the evenings. We started with the salicylate challenge this week and there seemed to be no reaction, until day 5/6 when we started to notice his behaviour was getting worse. We will stop this challenge tonight and wait to try some other groups. His GP and Clinical Psychologist are both thrilled with the change as well! …

One week later ….

After I emailed you we finally had the BIG reaction we were looking for. It happened on Day 7 of the salicylate challenge - we had already stopped the challenge that morning. Tim went to bed as normal then began to write swear words all over his bed, his sheets and his body. ("I was angry with you because I couldn't fall asleep") This is the behaviour and obsessive ruminations this poor boy was experiencing on a daily basis before the elimination diet, which we have not seen until this challenge.

This positive reply was received from the National Children’s Commissioner in August 2016 after multiple followups:


See latest collection of reports including many of self-harm caused by food (July 2016)