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Communication Colloquium Series: “My body tells my story”: Self-injury and the embodied language of pain, power and hope

Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at 1:00pm to 2:15pm

Mann Library, 458
Cornell University Mann Library, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA

Self-injury is intentionally hurting the body (e.g. cutting, burning etc..) but without suicidal intent. Because it often looks like a suicidal gesture it tends to evoke fear and confusion. While common to think of it as a mental illness, it is perplexingly common among normally functioning youth and youth adults. Drawing on core findings of a long term mixed method research program on the purpose and contexts of self-injury, this talk will summarize key studies and findings highlighting the way self-injury so often serves as an expression of self-crafted narrative, embodied emotion, and, ultimately, power and hope. It will also include discussion of how a strong network of internationally networked programs of research in this area, all of which started at about the same time, have led to interlocked research agendas and effective research translation efforts targeted at those individuals best positioned to make a difference in real world settings. Finally, it will discuss how our studies show that, while often hidden to onlookers, those who use it frequently reveal themselves and their stories in digital spaces, opening the door to novel opportunities for connection and intervention.  


Janis Whitlock is a Research Scientist in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research at Cornell University. Dedicated to linking cutting edge science with on the ground efforts to support and enhance the lives of youth and their families, her research focuses on developmental and contextual contributors to adolescent and young adult social and emotional health and wellbeing. She is the founder and director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery, a program established in 2003 to enhance understanding a clearly critical but understudied phenomenon among youth. She also conducts research in areas related to sexual violence prevention and the role of digital technologies in wellbeing. She is also dedicated to translational practices aimed at making research accessible and useful to those best positioned to make a direct difference in the lives of youth, such as parents and youth-serving professionals.  

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Joanna Alario

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Dr. Janis Whitlock

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Cornell University

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