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Perspectives

Publication Date

7-1-2018

Abstract

Self-harm is defined as the direct, deliberate destruction or alteration of body tissue (Bakken and Gunter 2012). This research is important because previous research has found that university students are likely to engage in self-harm and that it is an often-overlooked problem among both young people and university students (Gollust et al. 2008; Whitlock et al. 2011; Bakken and Gunter 2012). Additionally, the more we know about self-harm and self-harm trends the more we can do to reduce it in our communities.

In crafting my research question I examined previous research of self-harm on college campuses. One of the studies I examined focused on establishing an estimate of the amount of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) among university students by using an internet-based survey to examine self-harm as well as risk factors such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders (Gollust et al. 2008). The authors found that seven percent of survey respondents reported selfinjury in the past four weeks (Gollust et al. 2008). Other research I looked at focused on NSSI characteristics and sex differences, similarly using a web-based survey of university students (Whitlock et al. 2011). The authors of this study found that females were more likely to selfinjure than males and that individuals with a sexual orientation other than heterosexual were at a higher level of risk for NSSI (Whitlock et al. 2011). Another study I looked at focused on comparing mental health and self-harm between lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women on college campuses. This study found that both lesbian bisexual women were the more likely to self-harm than heterosexual women and that bisexual women were the most likely to self-harm (Kerr et al. 2013). The fourth study I looked at also examined risk factors for self-harm among college students and likelihood of self-harm. The study found that seventeen percent of university students self-harmed, and of that seventeen percent, seventy-five percent did it more than once. The researchers also found that many of the self-harm behaviors occurred among individuals who had never been in therapy and rarely disclosed that they had self-harm tendencies. The researchers concluded that it is critical that medical and mental health providers find effective strategies for detecting and addressing self-harm behaviors among university students (Whitlock et al. 2006).

The previous research studies have multiple limitations that limit their generalizability. One limitation is the small sample sizes of the previous research, which limit the ability to generalize to a larger population. Another limitation is a focus on primarily LGBTQIAP+ women and men, which again leads to lack of generalizability as it can ignore the transgender and non-binary or nonconforming communities. Another limitation is that while much of the previous research explores which groups are more likely to self-harm than others and what variables increase or decrease the likelihood of self-harm, there is no discussion on the amount of self-harm between groups. While research has stated that LGBTQIAP+ people are generally more likely to self-harm than non-LGBTQIAP+ people, the research has not examined if they are likely to do so more frequently.

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