Cutting on-line: Self-injury and the internet

Sarah Swannell, Graham Martin Oam, Karolina Krysinska, Tracey Kay, Katherine Olsson, Aung Win

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


For people who self-injure, the internet can provide an anonymous environment where users feel safe to divulge feelings and experiences which are not usually socially sanctioned. However, internet users can encourage each other to engage in self-destructive behaviour. This qualitative study aimed to simulate a typical search an adolescent might perform if he/she was looking for support and information about self-injury. The aim was to determine whether the resulting content was helpful or harmful. Seven queries - 'cutting', 'self injury', 'self-injury', 'self harm', 'self-harm', 'self-mutilation', and 'self mutilation' - were entered into and each link from the first webpage from each search was opened and judged for relevancy. Thirty-nine links were analysed and grouped into five categories: websites (n=5); webpages (n=11); book results (n=8); news results (n=11); and other (n=4). Examination of the quality and content of the links obtained from our search showed mainly recovery oriented, supportive information about self-injury. Despite this positive outcome, more specific searches such as 'pro-self-injury' would likely result in less encouraging results. Mental health professionals should be aware that their self-injuring clients have probably used the internet for support and information, and consider how this use might impact on therapy. Mental health professionals could use the results of this study to recommend quality internet sites to their clients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-189
Number of pages13
JournalAdvances in Mental Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescence
  • Contagion
  • Internet
  • Qualitative research
  • Self-harm
  • Self-injurious behavior

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