Teens Posting 'Cutting' Videos on YouTube02/21/11
MONDAY, Feb. 21 (HealthDay News) -- The YouTube videos are
disturbing -- images of teens with their arms bleeding and scarred
where they sliced into themselves with a razor blade or other sharp
object; poetry about pain, loneliness and hopelessness.
"My secret is my blade, it is my obsession, it is my dark secret, when I am empty I bleed, when I am sad I bleed, when I have no hope I bleed," reads the text of one such video.
Researchers report this as evidence of an alarming new trend:
Teens posting videos on YouTube that depict "cutting," in which
troubled adolescents use a razor blade or other sharp object to dig
into their skin and draw blood, or other forms of self-injury such
as embedding objects under the skin or burning themselves.
By sharing the sometimes graphic images with other vulnerable
youths, the videos may make the behavior seem more normal and even
prompt some teens to try it, the researchers noted.
"Some individuals who view this, if they are vulnerable and if they are regularly and repeatedly viewing these types of videos, it could be a virtual community in which self-injury could be reinforced and getting help is not always conveyed," said study author Stephen Lewis, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.
The study was released online Feb. 21 and will appear in the
March print issue of
Researchers searched for the top 100 most-viewed videos about
self-injury or self-harm. Together, the top videos had been viewed
more than 2.3 million times, and many were rated favorably by
viewers. About 64 percent were about cutting, while the rest were
about other forms of self-harm.
About 42 percent of the videos warned viewers that the images
might be "triggering," that is, prompt someone with a history of
cutting to want to injure themselves.
Yet few of the videos were outright encouraging cutting -- only
about 7 percent were obviously so.
About 42 percent were neutral, 26 percent discouraged
self-injury and 23 percent had a mixed message, according to the
"These videos aren't necessarily promoting self-injury," Lewis said. "It could be them expressing their experiences, dispelling myths or trying to educate people."
As for the overall tone of the videos, about 53 percent were
factual or educational, 51 percent were melancholic, 23 percent
were encouraging, 16 percent were hopeful, 13 percent were angry, 4
percent were humorous and 25 percent didn't fit into any of those
categories, the report indicated.
"Cutting was my alternative to committing suicide. It was a comfort, the blood reminded me I was alive," wrote "Amy" in one YouTube video.
Youths who "cut" are typically not trying to kill themselves,
but say that harming themselves helps them cope with other mental
health problems, such as anxiety, depression and frustration,
explained Dr. Niranjan Karnik, an assistant professor of psychiatry
and behavioral neuroscience at University of Chicago who
specializes in treating adolescents.
Self-injury may be more common than many parents understand,
Lewis said. Between 14 percent and 24 percent of youth and young
adults have self-injured at least once, according to background
information in the study.
Though worrisome, Karnik said it's a good sign that so many of
the videos were a teen-aged version of the public service
announcement, warning others about the dangers of self-injury,
depression and suicide.
And since most self-injury is done secretively, the videos may
open up an avenue of discussion for parents and teens, Karnik
"So much of this cutting behavior has been this hidden epidemic. Kids would do it, go to school and show their circle of friends," Karnick said. "If a parent comes across this at home, or sees their kid has been looking at these videos or posting on a Facebook wall what they like about someone else's video, this is an opportunity for adults to open up a discussion and talk about it."
Karnick warned parents against freaking out if they find out
their teen is cutting.
"Don't come down on them like a ton of bricks if it's minor cutting," he advised. "For many kids, it's like a pressure valve until we can give them some better strategies for coping."
Center for Young Women's Health has more on teens and
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