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Feb212011

YouTube Vids on Cutting: Harmful or Helpful?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ONTARIO, Canada) -- YouTube provides easy access to videos of almost anything, but what is the impact on viewers, especially younger viewers, when "anything" includes hundreds of photos, video clips and montages of self-harming behaviors such as cutting and self-mutilation?

In a study that analyzed the videos, Canadian researchers found that the 100 most popular videos portraying self-harm on YouTube have been viewed more than 2 million times and selected as "favorite" more than 12,000 times, triggering concern over what kind of impact the sharing and viewing of these videos may be having on those at risk for self-injurious behavior.

"We found that very few videos actually encourage self-injury," says the lead author on the study, Stephen Lewis of the University of Guelph in Ontario. "Most were neutral or hopeful for overcoming this issue.”

Concerned for the potential risks, YouTube contacted researchers and has since removed the videos they considered inappropriate content, Lewis says.

Self-injury behavior, which, in the videos, most often took the form of self-cutting, is known as non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) because while it involves the deliberate destruction of one's own body tissue, it is not necessarily driven by a desire for suicide. Often, self-harmers report that cutting is a form of coping with emotional pain and that the act of inflicting pain on themselves provides powerful momentary relief from mental distress, says Kim Gratz, director of personality disorders research at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Though it's hard to gauge the prevalence of this behavior, Gratz says that studies find that between 17 and 40 percent of college students admit to committing self harm and between 15 and 30 percent of high school students do.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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