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Few Good Resources on Self-Harm Exist Online

Misleading information could affect treatment decisions, researchers say

MONDAY, April 7, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- People seeking help online for cutting and other forms of self-harm often receive incorrect or misleading information, according to a new study published online March 24 in JAMA Pediatrics.

To analyze the quality of information on self-injury available on the Internet, the researchers used a Google keywords program. They identified 92 terms related to the behavior that get at least 1,000 hits each month. For each term, they examined the content on the websites displayed on the first page of each search. About 22 percent of the links that showed up in the searches were for health information websites, but only 10 percent of these websites were endorsed by a health or academic institution.

The investigators also found that each website contained at least one myth about self-injury. Among the misconceptions found was that self-injury is linked to gender and that self-injury is an attention-seeking behavior. About half of the websites examined said that people who self-injure have mental illness, and 40 percent said those who self-injure have a history of abuse. Meanwhile, 37 percent said most people who engage in self-injury are women. All of these statements are either false or exaggerated, the researchers noted.

"Unfortunately, much of the information we found on the Internet is of poor quality, and some of it propagates myths about people who self-injure, which may lead to further stigmatization and isolation," Lewis said in a university news release.

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