New Online Project Supports Recovery From Self-injury

April 02, 2012 - News Release

To address the pressing need for a recovery-focused online support for those who self-injure, University of Guelph psychology professor Stephen Lewis and McGill University’s James McGill Professor, Nancy Heath, have launched a groundbreaking website: Self-injury Outreach and Support (SiOS). was developed as a result of their ongoing research and collaboration.

SiOSSiOS is the first international online outreach initiative offering recovery support and resources for individuals who self-injure, as well as their families, romantic partners and friends, and school, medical and mental health professionals.

“SiOS provides research-informed and current resources with an emphasis on recovery,” said Lewis. “There are downloadable and printable best-practice guides for school professionals and health professionals, guides for parents, and strategies to foster well-being and help individuals cope with self-injury urges and difficult emotions.”
In one section called “You Are Not Alone,” people are encouraged to share their recovery stories in order to help others. Also available on the website are links to other resources, including books and websites about self-injury.

Self-injury is the deliberate and direct destruction of one’s body tissue, without suicidal intent. Most often this includes self-cutting, burning and bruising, but excludes tattooing or piercing.

“Recent research has shown that between 14 per cent and 24 per cent of youths and young adults have engaged in self-injury at least once, and about a quarter of those have done it more frequently than that,” Lewis said. “Unfortunately, many who self-injure do not seek help. It is very important to find a way to reach out to people who self-injure and those who can play a supportive role in their recovery. Because so many youth and young adults use the Internet – and many do so to communicate about self-injury – this represents a unique opportunity to reach those struggling with self-injury. Because the Internet is accessible worldwide, the impact of SiOS can be far-reaching.”

Last year, Lewis, Heath, and their research teams were the first to study the alarming trend of teens posting self-injury videos on YouTube. They noted that these videos were watched millions of times around the world.
Their findings suggest that this use of social media by those who self-injure may lead some people to believe that self-injury is a viable way to cope with distress, while providing them with a sense of belonging and community among those who watch and post self-injury videos. The research also indicated that the Internet may represent a powerful vehicle to reach out to those who self-injure and offer helpful recovery resources.

As a result of this research, YouTube has been in consultation with Lewis and Heath to work towards minimizing potential harm and facilitate access to recovery information and materials for YouTube users at risk of self-injury, as well as their friends, partners and families who come to the website to search for self-injury videos.

“Throughout this consultation, I have seen that YouTube is committed to working with us to ensure that individuals viewing self-injury videos on YouTube also have access to healthy resources and support,” said Lewis.

He runs a laboratory at U of G that conducts a wide range of studies on self-injury. Major goals of this research include: understanding the scope and nature of self-injury depicted online and in various forms of social media; developing ways to effectively provide resources to those who self-injure; and investigating what factors are involved in self-injury and its recovery.

Lewis and Heath believe SiOS will provide essential outreach and support to those struggling with self-injury and to the people who can support their recovery.

Prof. Stephen P. Lewis
Department of Psychology
519-824-4120, Ext. 53299

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or, or Shiona Mackenzie, Ext. 56982, or

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