Tag Archives: self-injury

 whitlock460Online course brings self-injury to the surface                                                                     Janis Whitlock, Ph.D. ’03, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery (CRPSIR) and a research scientist in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, hopes to spotlight the issue by launching a set of web-based                                   education and training courses.
sad girlEarly puberty in girls raises the risk of depression                                                                   Perri Klass interviewed Jane Mendle in her NY Times' column, The Checkup, about Mendle's research with girls who begin puberty earlier than their peers. Read here about her findings and the risks these girls face in adolescence. 
LRDM lab members and 4-H Career Explorations studentsLearning to reduce risky behaviors leads to STEM careers                                                          The Laboratory for Rational Decision Making, led by Dr. Valerie Reyna in Human Development, welcomed 24 high school students from 18 different counties in New York State as part of  the 4-H Career Explorations Conference.
gsalogoGerontological Society selects experts on aging as fellows                     Professors Corinna Loeckenhoff and Elaine Wethington of human development, were two of 94 professionals named on May 31 to the society, which is the largest of its kind seeking to understand aging in the United States.

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Sarah MooreHD graduate student in the news: Sarah R. Moore                                                             Sarah R. Moore, Ph.D. student of Dr. Richard A. Depue, was awarded the Early Career Outstanding Paper Award in Developmental Psychology. Read her summary of research on how people differ in their interaction with their environment.
MorenoMarcos Moreno '17 is named a 2016 Udall scholar                                                                  The Udall Scholarship supports undergraduates with excellent academic records and who show potential for careers in environmental public policy, health care and tribal public policy. Moreno is a human development major concentrating in neuroscience in                               the College of Human Ecology.
tumblr_inline_oab7iaDzqM1tqatqb_1280Summer Scholar Spotlight: Deborah Seok ‘17                                                                              In faculty research labs, in communities across the state, and at jobs and internships around the globe, Human Ecology undergrads are making a powerful impact this summer as they apply their knowledge and skills in real-world settings.

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Robert SternbergHow can current research inform the development of new methods to assess intelligence?                                                                                                                                    Read the fifth post from the six-part series, "Researching Human Intelligence" on fifteeneightyfour, the blog of Cambridge University Press, with Robert Sternberg,                                           professor of human development.

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video play buttonVideo introduces the Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement (PRYDE), explaining it's mission and introducing key researchers and practitioners involved in the project.                                                                                                                                             
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Reprinted from the Cornell Chronicle, May 25th, 2016

By Olivia M. Hall

The cuts, burns and scars of nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) are rarely seen, as they are inflicted in private and hidden under pant legs and sleeves.

Janis Whitlock

Janis Whitlock, Ph.D.

Janis Whitlock, Ph.D. ’03, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery (CRPSIR) and a research scientist in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, hopes to spotlight the issue by launching a set of web-based education and training courses. Working with eCornell, the university’s online learning subsidiary, she is showing how researchers can use the internet to broaden their reach well beyond campus.

The curriculum, aimed at individuals who interact with youths in school, community and clinical settings, as well as parents, offers research-based information paired with intervention and prevention strategies to address a phenomenon that is widespread but not yet fully understood.

“It’s a scary thing to encounter,” said Whitlock. “It’s just not your typical, run-of-the-mill risk behavior.”

Individuals practicing NSSI – upward of 15 percent of adolescents and young adults try it at least once – deliberately damage their bodies, for example by cutting, burning or carving their skin or punching objects or themselves to inflict harm. Whitlock cites 15 to 17 percent lifetime prevalence of NSSI among Cornell students, according to surveys.

Although the surface wounds may look like suicide attempts, Whitlock pointed out that NSSI is, in fact, a coping mechanism for individuals trying to deal with intense feelings or attempting to reconnect from a sense of dissociation that stems from a history of trauma or abuse.

After first hearing about NSSI among otherwise functional, nonclinical adolescents more than a decade ago, Whitlock launched epidemiological studies, founded CRPSIR and brought together colleagues to form the International Society for the Study of Self-Injury in 2006. “Now we have so much literature coming out, I can’t keep up with it,” she said. But research on techniques for intervention in schools and families is still nascent, and findings do not always reach those in need.

“When I give presentations in schools, even elementary schools, I can pack a house talking about self-injury – it’s really pretty sad,” said Whitlock. “People come up to me asking for follow-up information. Clearly we need another dissemination vehicle.”

Paul Krause ’91, CEO of eCornell and associate vice provost for online learning, agreed: “We quickly recognized that it would make sense to work together because eCornell has all the capabilities to support the development, delivery and marketing of an online NSSI course.”

Best known for its professional development courses in such areas as marketing, finance and hospitality, eCornell also applies its experience and best practices to specialized curricula such as Whitlock’s to extend research-based education to learners beyond Ithaca.

Some 40 participants have enrolled since the first, self-paced version of the NSSI 101 courselaunched in February. This month, Whitlock is facilitating co-experts on NSSI by teaching the first iteration of a three-week version that offers eight to 10 hours of interactive instruction and continuing education credits. Shorter, abridged courses are also in development for medical professionals and parents of children who self-injure.

“This is an exciting opportunity for us,” said Krause, under whose leadership eCornell doubled the number of faculty members it works with to more than 100 over the past year. “We have faculty who are leading experts in their fields. eCornell’s mission is to help them use online learning to reach people all over the world.” (Whitlock’s first registrant was from South Korea.)

“The audiences with whom we seek to engage – be they parents, educators or others – need information that is high-quality, based in sound research, is compelling and that they can access on their own schedule,” added Rachel Dunifon, associate dean for research and outreach in theCollege of Human Ecology. “Working with eCornell to deliver research-based programming allows us to take a cutting-edge approach to our public engagement mission, broadening our reach and enhancing our impact as we seek to fulfill our college mission of improving lives.”

Olivia M. Hall, Ph.D. '12, is a freelance writer and anthropologist.

By Ted Boscia
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, December 4, 2012

Whitlock

Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) -- deliberately harming one's body through such acts as cutting, burning or biting -- is a primary risk factor for future suicide in teens and young adults, finds a new longitudinal study of college students led by a Cornell mental health researcher.

The paper, published online Dec. 4 in the Journal of Adolescent Health, describes how NSSI, thought to be a coping mechanism for some individuals in distress, may also open the door to more dangerous actions by lowering one's inhibitions to suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

"While we can't conclude that self-injury leads to later suicide attempts, it is a red flag that someone is distressed and is at greater risk," said lead author Janis Whitlock, Ph.D. '03, a research scientist in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR). "This is important because self-injury is a relatively new behavior that does not show up much in the literature as a risk factor for suicide. It also suggests that if someone with self-injury history becomes suicidal, having engaged in NSSI may make it much easier to carry out the physical actions needed to lethally damage the body."
 
In a longitudinal study of 1,466 students at five U.S. colleges, Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior in Adolescents and Young Adults, and co-investigators found NSSI to precede or coincide with suicidal thoughts and behaviors in slightly more than 60 percent of cases observed.

Participants, most in their early 20s, answered a confidential mental health survey annually for three years that assessed their history of NSSI and suicidal thoughts and behaviors, along with demographic information and common protective and risk factors. Researchers found that, independent of other risk factors, people who had self-injured were nearly three times as likely to attempt or consider suicide, while those with a history of five or more instances of self-injury were four times more likely to do so. The study has implications for NSSI treatment and suicide prevention. Previous studies have shown as many as 20 percent of college students and 25-35 percent of teens have a lifetime history of NSSI. Given its prevalence, Whitlock noted that physicians and others who work with youth should be better trained to spot such behaviors and assess for suicide risk.

Of many protective factors considered, the study identified two that appear to help lower the suicide risk in young people with a history of NSSI. Participants who had confided in their parents about their distress and those who perceived meaning in life were significantly less likely to show suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

"Meaning in life as a protective factor is not so surprising, because many who attempt suicide report that they feel a deep and often chronic lack of life meaning," Whitlock said. "However, considering that we studied a college population, it's a surprise that the parents emerged as having such a powerful influence in young adults' mental well-being, especially since we looked at respondents' relationships with all kinds of people, including therapists. Treatments for people at risk for suicide should focus on strengthening these relationships when feasible."

Cornell co-authors on the paper include John Eckenrode, BCTR director and professor of human development, and Amanda Purington, BCTR research support specialist.

The research was supported by a grant from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Ted Boscia is assistant director of communications for the College of Human Ecology.

Janis Whitlock

A new project, “Youth-Development Based Resources for Preventing Self-Inflicted Violence and Promoting Positive Coping in Adolescents” has received 3 year funding through a Smith-Lever grant. The project is intended to develop downloadable materials and presentations that increase awareness of individual and environmental factors leading to non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), offer YD-based approaches to enhance coping in adolescents, and build capacity to detect and respond to NSSI and other signs of distress and violence in youth. The materials will be designed for use by Cooperative Extension Educators but are intended to be of value and use to others as well. The Principal Investigators are Janis Whitlock, John Eckenrode, and Jane Powers and the grant will be administered out of the Family Life Development Center (FLDC).

Further Resources

Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior

video logo The Cutting Edge: What Parents Need to Know About Self-Injury in Adolescents. Dr. Janis Whitlock, February 28, 2007.