Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Self-Injury Groups on Facebook/Des Groupes D'automutilation Sur Facebook

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Self-Injury Groups on Facebook/Des Groupes D'automutilation Sur Facebook

Article excerpt

Self-injury refers to deliberate and voluntary injury to the physical self that is non-life-threatening and, importantly, is performed without conscious suicidal intent (Favazza, 1996; Froeschle & Moyer, 2004; Haines & Williams, 2003; Herpertz, Sass, & Favazza, 1997). Walsh (2006) specifically defined self-injury as "intentional, self effected, low lethality harm of a socially unacceptable nature performed to reduce psychological distress" (p. 4), Self-injury is alternatively referred to throughout the literature as nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI), self-harm, deliberate self-harm (DIB), and self-mutilation (Favazza 1996; Laye-Gindhu & Schonert-Reichl, 2005; Tantam & Whittaker, 1992). In mainstream, society, the term most commonly used to describe people who self-injure would be "cutter," as this is often the most identifiable form of self-injurious behaviour.

Self-injury is most often understood as a symptom of an underlying problem. It has been linked to various mood, anxiety, eating, substance, and personality disorders (Briere & Gil, 1998; Conterio, Lader, & Bloom, 1998; Favazza, 1992, 1996; Herpertz et al., 1997; Klonsky & Olino, 2008; Ross & Heath, 2002; Simeon & Favazza, 2001; Tan tarn & Whittaker, 1992). Research in the last 20 years has demonstrated that self-injurious behaviours are not limited to institutionalized populations and are much more common in the general population than originally assumed (Briere & Gil, 1998; Favazza, 1.996; Favazza & Rosenthal, 1990; Walsh, 2006); in fact research has shown self-injury to be particularly common among adolescents and young adults (Van der Kolk, Van der Hart, & Marmar, 1996).


Self-injurious behaviours typically begin in adolescence, anywhere from age 13 to 1 9, and may continue for a number of years with variable intensity (Akyuz, Sar, Kugu, & Dogän, 2005; Conterio et al., 1998; Favazza, 1996; Froeschle & Moyer, 2004; Laye-Gindhu & Schonert-Reichl, 2005). White, Trepal-Wollenzier, and Nolan (2002) found that individuals between the ages of 1.8 and 22 are those most at risk of engaging in self-injurious behaviours, and Gratzs (2001) study echoed these numbers with research demonstrating that 35% of college students had either engaged in self-injury at one point in their lives or were currently self-injuring.

Three recent Canadian studies (Laye-Gindhu & Schonert-Reichl, 2005; Nixon, Cloutier, & Jansson, 2008; Ross & Heath, 2002) that have focused on the prevalence and onset of self-injury in nonclinical samples of adolescents and young adults are particularly relevant to this discussion, Laye-Gindhu and SchonertReichl (2005) focused on self-injury in a population of 424 urban high school students, aged 13 to 18-years old, in. Vancouver, British Columbia. Nixon et al. (2008) used data from the Victoria Healthy Youth Survey a population-based longitudinal survey of 580 youth aged 14 to 21 in Victoria, British Columbia, In a national study, Ross and Heath (2002) sampled 440 youth from urban and suburban high schools in Canada. Findings from these studies show that between 13.9% and 16.9% of youth admit to self-injury, with up to 42% reporting thoughts of self-injury. Taken together, these studies describe characteristic behaviour and patterns of youth who self-injure.

The majority of youth in Ross and Heaths (2002) study who reported engaging in self-injury began doing so between 12 and 14 years of age. Nixon et al. (2008) found the average age of onset for self-injurious behaviour to be 15 years of age, a finding that indicates that some youth begin self-injuring at later ages. The majority of the youth who admitted to self-injury claimed that they had done so repetitively for over a year, with 12% saying they had engaged in self-injury over 20 times in. the past year (Laye-Gindhu & Schonert-Reichl, 2005). Consistent with these findings, 13. …

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