Self-injury & Recovery Resources (SIRR)


Research program background
Current research projects
Participate! Open research Studies
Other studies

  • Our studies span a wide array of areas to
    help answer important questions.

    The Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery was launched in 2003 to understand what was then widely believed to be a new and emerging behavior among youth and adults. Since that time, our studies have spanned a wide array of areas and have endeavored to address questions such as:

    • How prevalent are self-injurious practices and other mental health conditions in adolescent and young adult populations? Among whom?
    • How does self-injurious behavior spread in adolescent and young adult populations?
    • What about the interaction of current cultural context and developmental stage makes self-injury appealing to adolescents and young adults?
    • Do mental health providers perceive a change in the prevalence of self-injurious behavior? If so, to what do they attribute this change?
    • What contextual conditions predispose to and protect individuals from the conditions and distress that lead to self-injurious behavior and other poor mental health outcomes?
    • How do the personal narratives of self-injurious youth differ from those of non-self injurious youth? What do these differences tell us about the way larger cultural narratives and contextual influences inform development and behavioral choices?
    • What is the relationship between self-injurious behavior and suicide?
    • Can self-injurious behavior and other concerning mental health conditions, such as suicide, be prevented in the college setting by community-based interventions?
    • Are there different developmental trajectories for self-injurious behavior? If so, why? What are the consequences of these different trajectories?
  • Current Studies

    Our current research projects continue the general line of inquiry we started in 2003, but now focus more generally on:

    • The self-injury recovery process
    • Mechanisms through which the experience of self-injury contributes to later socioemotional growth and development
    • Parental experiences of child self-injury and the recovery process
    • The role of context, narrative, emotion, and cognition in self-injury onset and maintenance
    • Mental health trajectories over time: Incidence and contributors
    • Application of “connectedness” to suicide prevention in youth and youth adults
    • Feasibility and efficacy of web-based psycho-educational interventions for parents, professionals, and individuals with self-injury history
    • Application of mindfulness-based interventions to self-injury recovery

    Development of an online training course for professionals on self-injury

    A 10-module online training course is currently under development. This psycho-educational training tool is intended to be particularly useful for youth-serving professionals and health educators, or others who are asked or expected to know more than the average person about self-injury. It encompasses a variety of topics germane to self-injury, including adolescent brain, body and being development, as well as NSSI basic proficiency, detection and intervention of NSSI, common treatment approaches, prevention and recovery processes. When complete, this course will be available through Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators, and will be available for a minimal fee to interested parties. In the future this course will be adapted for specific populations, such as parents and clinicians.

    Book contract with Oxford University Press

    Dr. Whitlock is partnering with Dr. Elizabeth Lloyd-Richardson at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth to produce a book for parents on self-injury. Drawing from years of research into the experiences of parents and caregivers of those who self-injure, this book is intended to educate and inform, as well as provide relevant information and specific tools for parent’s and caregivers on the unique challenges they face when parenting a child who self-injures.

    Resilience training program for college mental health

    CRPSIR is partnering with Gannett Health Services at Cornell University to develop a resilience training program for young adults. This program will build around the Cornell Resilience Model and will include techniques intended to promote resilience in young adults.

    Understanding the stages of change as it relates to recovery from self-injury

    CRPSIR is in the process of researching how Prochaska & DiClemente’s model of comprehensive change may be used to understand recovery from self-injury. Deeper understanding of the mechanisms of stage-based change will pave the way for educational and therapeutic interventions tailored to specific stages. Psychometric properties of the TTM constructs (stages of change, decisional balance, processes of change, self-efficacy and temptation) will be measured by surveying 320 individuals who self-injure. Tools for assisting NYS CCEs and other youth-serving professionals to screen and more effectively respond based on the stage of change readiness in youth exhibiting NSSI behavior will be developed, and disseminated.

    The neurology of self-injury

    CRPSIR is partnering with Professor Adam Anderson in the Department of Human Development at Cornell University to conduct a study intended to examine the neural signature of pain related to NSSI and pain offset. This study will make use of the innovative technology to measure pain perception and pain tolerance. Findings will be used to better understand possible reinforcement mechanisms, as well as how pain is perceived and managed through the use of self-injury.

    Social media/networks study

    CRPSIR is in partnering with Professor Natalie Bazarova and Professor Dan Cosley to recruit college students for a Facebook study. Data will be used to better understand the relationship between emotion and online experiences, as it relates to overall mental-health and well-being. (NSF funded)

    Parent secondary stress study

    We are continuing to actively collect data for ongoing research into how parents are affected by the experience of raising a child who self-injures. We are particularly interested in protective and resilience factors that promote meaningful recovery trajectories. As part of this ongoing study we are collecting data from a control group of parents of adolescents who do not self-injure and do not have other mental health issues. Data from these samples will be used to better understand the emotional and social experiences of parents as they help their children navigate adolescence.

    Longitudinal survey & study of college mental health and well-being

    Data collected from a random sample of eight American universities using the Survey of College Mental Health and Well Being is currently being used to assess a variety of mental health and well being relationships. A subsample from five of these universities was longitudinally followed from 2007-2009. Data from this sample is being used to better understand the relationship between mental health, young adult development, and context.

    Parent-Child Study of self-injury experience

    This small mixed method study is intended to deepen understanding of how parent and child relationships are affected by the presence of self-injury, the unique experiences of parents of self-injurious youth, and the ways in which parenting affects the recovery process. Data include qualitative interviews with both parents and youth as well as survey data from family pairs. A newly launched survey only component will investigate secondary stress in parents, in particular. Data will be used to create materials and other support resources for parents and youth serving professionals who work with parents and families in areas related to self-injury.

  • New Study through CRPSIR

    Have you ever intentionally hurt yourself without wanting to end your life? (e.g., cut, scratched, burned, etc.)

    If so, you may be eligible to participate in a research study about self-injury and receive $90.00!

    This study is dedicated to understanding whether social media use can be helpful in self-injury recovery for individuals between 16 and 25 years old. Participants will receive information and resources about self-injury, will be asked to fill out weekly surveys for 8 weeks, and may be asked to try a mobile peer-to-peer social media application.

    If you or anyone you know is interested in participating or in finding out more, please go to the link below for more information and to take a brief survey to determine your eligibility.

    If you have any questions, please contact the Director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery, Janis Whitlock at

    Thank you!

    Take the eligibility survey

  • Treating Self-Injurious Behavior: A Novel Brain Stimulation Approach

    Researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute are conducting a study of an investigational, minimal risk, non-invasive treatment called Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS), as a form of therapy for people who hurt themselves. If you cut or hurt yourself, are between the ages of 18-60 and are interested in participating in a research study involving assessments of your mood and behavior and tDCS, please contact Ilana Gratch at or 646-774-7538.Three months of treatment visits with a psychiatrist for medication management will then be offered after at no cost to you. Compensation of $150 is provided for time and effort if you are eligible and complete all research procedures. If you are interested, please contact Ilana Gratch at 646-774-7538 or at

    More information is available here.

Contact Information

Please feel free to contact us if you have questions, would like additional information about our education and consulting services, or want to participate in our study activities.

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Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research