Search Cornell

Book offers hope to parents of children who self-injure


By Susan Kelley for the Cornell Chronicle

"Healing Self-Injury" book coverParents who discover their children intentionally hurt themselves – by cutting, carving, scratching or burning their skin – often feel guilty and ashamed, assuming they somehow caused their children’s emotional distress.

A new book by experts in self-injury offers parents hope: assurance that they didn’t cause their child’s self-injuring, and guidance on how they can become key allies in helping their child heal.

“Having a child self-injure can be so hard and feel so dark at times. Our intention was to inform, encourage and support caretakers,” said Janis Whitlock, co-author of “Healing Self-Injury: A Compassionate Guide for Parents and Other Loved Ones” (Oxford University Press), available Feb. 4.

The book is based on extensive research – including Whitlock’s work as director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery. The book’s vivid anecdotes are drawn from the researchers’ in-depth interviews with real families in recovery from self-injury.

Co-written with Elizabeth Lloyd-Richardson of the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, “Healing Self-Injury” focuses on life after parents or caregivers have discovered their child is involved in non-suicidal self-injury – self-injury that is not intended to end one’s life. The book covers the background and basics of self-injury, why people do it and, most importantly, how parents and loved ones can help their child, their families and themselves.

Commonly known as “cutting,” non-suicidal self-injury is best understood as a way of coping with stressful emotions and thoughts, the authors say. The relief from the physical pain of a self-injury essentially tricks the brain into perceiving relief from emotional pain too. Self-injury can include such behaviors as embedding objects in the skin and swallowing toxic substances. Most people who self-injure also deal with other mental health challenges. And it is far more common than most people know; between 12 and 37 percent of all teenagers and young adults have self-injured at some point in their lives.

Parenting is generally not the critical factor in causing a child to self-injure; it has more to do with how children perceive themselves and their environment.

portrait of Janis Whitlock

Janis Whitlock

“So much of self-injury is giving voice to emotional experiences. It’s a way to take an amorphous, emotional cloud of stuff and focus it and control it,” said Whitlock.

Parents are not only critical allies in setting the stage for a child’s ability to recover and thrive, but are also the most helpful confidants a self-injuring child has – even more useful than peers and therapists, said Whitlock.

“There’s an authentic self – a self that exists from the time the child arrives on the planet – that a parent or caretaker has some connection to,” she said. “There’s something about that relationship that can be a very healing agent in this process.”

She encourages parents to simply bear witness to a child’s perceived emotional wounds, rather than try to fix them. “That’s what a lot of kids in our research said: ‘When my parents can just listen, when they can just be present with me, it makes a big difference.’ It opens the door to a tremendous healing capacity.”

The book also encourages parents to get support for themselves, such as therapy or by confiding in a trusted friend. “We try to validate the number and depth of the hard emotions that will come up for a parent,” she said. “It’s very disconcerting to see wounds on your child’s body or see blood left on a sink.”

By taking care of themselves and finding healthy ways to deal with the emotions related to the child’s self-injury, parents are modeling how to deal with difficult issues – which is what the children must learn to do for themselves.

“Demonstrate to your child – even if it’s new to you – how to be authentic. That modeling of authenticity, even if it’s messy, awkward or really uncomfortable, is important,” Whitlock said. “It’s in these hard places where you can most easily find the experience of being an authentic person. It’s where the seeds of hope and growth are.”


Book offers hope to parents of children who self-injure - Cornell Chronicle

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: book    CRPSIR    Janis Whitlock    media mention    mental health    parenting    self-injury    youth   

Wethington named AAAS fellow


portrait of Elaine Wethington

Elaine Wethington

by Sheri Hall for the BCTR

Elaine Wethington, professor of human development, sociology and gerontology in medicine, and associate director of the BCTR, was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific society.

Wethington is recognized for her contributions to medical sociology, focusing on the social aspects of physical and mental illnesses, their epidemiology and rigorous measurement, and for making her findings translatable to diverse audiences, including patients and the public.

Her research focuses on social relationships and isolation among older adults and the role of stressful life events in affecting mental and physical health across the life course. She also conducted ground-breaking research on developing measures of stressor exposure throughout her career.

“I am thrilled to have earned this prestigious recognition for my work in translational research to improve health and well-being,” Wethington said. “This is not something I could have done on my own, and I am grateful for the support of Cornell’s Roybal Center for Translational Research on Aging and its directors since 1993.”

Wethington is one of nine Cornell faculty members and 416 researchers across the world who were elected this year to honor their efforts to advance research and its applications to benefit humankind. Wethington and the other new fellows will be inducted into the association at its annual meeting on February 16 in Washington D.C.

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: award    Elaine Wethington    health    mental health   

Talks at Twelve: William Hobbs, Tuesday, March 12, 2019

 
portrait of William Hobbs

Connective Recovery in Social Networks After the Death of a Friend
William Hobbs, Cornell University

Tuesday, March 12, 2019
12:00-1:00 p.m.
423 ILR Conference Center



Most people have few close friends, leading to potential isolation after a friend’s death. What happens to the space left by the death of a friend? This presentation will describe how social networks recover, or rewire, after loss. The analyses will come from online social network data. The findings include how levels of interactions among close friends and acquaintances change in the year before and after the death of a friend, and how much interaction is lost from a death compared to how much is gained through new interactions with others. The patterns of this connective recovery in the first year after loss vary by closeness of friendship, age, online vs. offline interaction, and cause of death.

Will Hobbs is a new assistant professor in the Department of Human Development at Cornell. He studies the social effects of government policies, associations between social activity and health, and how small groups of people adapt to sudden changes in their lives. Some of his work has been covered in popular media, including The Atlantic, Science Magazine, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal. His ongoing research uses text and online social network data to study how and why people change. Before coming to Cornell, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Northeastern University's Network Science Institute and a visiting fellow at Harvard University's Institute for Quantitative Social Science. He has a PhD in Political Science from the University of California, San Diego.


Lunch will be provided.
This event is free and open to all. No registration is required, but groups of 10 or more, please inform Lori Biechele of your plans to attend so enough lunch can be ordered.

Parking is available on Garden Ave., in the Hoy Garage, or at various Parkmobile lots. Please stop at any information booth for assistance.

For further parking info, see:
Short-term parking options
Parkmobile map

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: human development    mental health    social media   

Talks at Twelve: Sara Czaja, Wednesday, February 27, 2019

 
portrait of Sara Czaja

Social Isolation Among Older Adults: What Role Can Technology Play?
Sara Czaja, Weill Cornell Medicine

Wednesday, February 27, 2019
12:00-1:00 p.m.
225 ILR Conference Center



Social isolation and loneliness are prevalent among older adults, represent significant health risks, and have been linked to cognitive declines, lower quality of life, a heightened risk for physical and mental health problems, functional declines, and mortality. Technology applications such as email, social media sites and online support groups hold promise in terms of enhancing engagement and providing support to older people in various domains and contexts. This presentation will present findings from CREATE and other trials regarding the access to and use of these applications among older adults and the resultant impact on social connectivity, loneliness and social support.

Sara J. Czaja, Ph.D. is the director of the Center on Aging and Behavioral Research in the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. She is also an emeritus professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine (UMMSM). Prior to joining the faculty at Weill Cornell, she was the director of the Center on Aging at the UMMSM. Sara received her Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering, specializing in Human Factors Engineering at the University of Buffalo in 1980. She is the director of the Center for Research and Education on Aging and Technology Enhancement (CREATE). Her research interests include: aging and cognition, aging and healthcare access and service delivery, family caregiving, aging and technology, training, and functional assessment. She has received continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health, Administration on Aging, and the National Science Foundation to support her research.

She is a fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA), the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and the Gerontological Society of American. She is also past president of Division 20 (Adult Development and Aging) of APA. She is a member of the National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences Board on Human Systems Integration. She served as a member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on the Public Health Dimensions of Cognitive Aging and as a member of the IOM Committee on Family Caregiving for Older Adults. Dr. Czaja is also the recipient of the 2015 M. Powell Lawton Distinguished Contribution Award for Applied Gerontology, of GSA; the 2013 Social Impact Award for the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM); the Jack A. Kraft Award for Innovation from HFES and the APA Interdisciplinary Team, both with CREATE; and the Franklin V. Taylor Award from Division 21 of APA.


Co-sponsored by the Graduate Field of Human Development

Lunch will be provided.
This event is free and open to all. No registration is required, but groups of 10 or more, please inform Lori Biechele of your plans to attend so enough lunch can be ordered.

Parking is available on Garden Ave., in the Hoy Garage, or at various Parkmobile lots. Please stop at any information booth for assistance.

For further parking info, see:
Short-term parking options
Parkmobile map

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: aging    BCTR Talks at Twelve    gerontology    health    mental health    social media    technology   

Time in nature to improve kids’ health


Adapted from an article by David Nutt for the Cornell Chronicle

The Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future’s Academic Venture Fund (AVF) supports collaborations that cut across disciplines to address today’s greatest sustainability challenges. In 2018, the fund awarded $1.5 million to a range of projects that will provide sustainable solutions around the world, from the Finger Lakes to the Pamir Mountains in Central Asia.

Among the 12 projects are efforts aimed at transforming nutrient-rich poultry waste into economically viable fertilizers; developing in-situ conservation strategies for African rice; boosting nature-based engagement for elementary schools in low-income communities; and connecting rural and urban areas across New York state through a public “Internet of Things” infrastructure.

portrait of Janis Whitlock

Janis Whitlock

Included in the 2018 funded projects is Opening the Door to Nature-Based Engagement, on which the BCTR's Janis Whitlock is a co-investigator.

Young people today show greater rates of stress and anxiety, a trend that coincides with a growing recognition of the threats to the natural environment. Employing a One Health approach, researchers will examine how curricular programing that provides students more time in nature can lead to healthier populations and environments. The project will specifically focus on elementary schools serving low-income communities in urban and rural areas, and will identify curricular best practices and generate data to inform programs and state policy for long-term social and environmental impact. The project also received a Engaged Cornell supplemental grant. Co-sponsored by MPH.

Investigators: Gen Meredith, population medicine and diagnostic sciences; Don Rakow, horticulture; Nancy Wells, design and environmental analysis; Janis Whitlock, Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research; Monika Safford, Weill Cornell Medicine; Samantha Hillson, Tompkins County Health Department.

Atkinson's Academic Venture Fund awards $1.5M to 12 projects - Cornell Chronicle

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: children    environment    grant    health    Janis Whitlock    media mention    mental health    youth   

Doing Translational Research podcast: Elissa Koslov, Tuesday, February 19, 2019

portrait of elissa kozlov View Media

Doing Translational Research podcast: Elissa Koslov

Mental Health Support in Palliative Care
April 27, 2017

Elissa Kozlov
Weill Cornell Medical College


Mental Health Support in Palliative Care
April 27, 2017

Elissa Kozlov
Weill Cornell Medical College

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: doing translational research    healthcare    mental health    NYC    podcast    Weill Cornell   

Talks at Twelve: Heather Derry and Elizabeth Luth, Wednesday, May 2, 2018

 
portraits of Heather Derry and Elizabeth Luth

Two talks by Behavioral Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine postdocs
Heather Derry and Elizabeth Luth, Behavioral Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine Weill Cornell Medical College

Wednesday, May 2, 2018
12:00-1:15 PM
Beebe Hall, 2nd floor conference room



Stress and Cognition in Clinical Discussions:  Exploring the Impact on Prognostic Understanding for Advanced Cancer Patients
Heather Derry, PhD, T32 Postdoctoral Fellow, Behavioral Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College

For patients with advanced cancer, clinical discussions about prognosis can be stressful.  In addition, patients’ prognostic understanding is often limited, which presents challenges for informed decision-making.  Laboratory-based research provides insight into the ways that stress influences our physical, emotional, and cognitive responses.  Heather will discuss how these responses may interface with clinical discussions in the context of advanced cancer, and future studies to assess the impact of stress and emotion on patients’ understanding of their illness.

Understanding Race Disparities in End-of-Life Care for Patients Living with Dementia
Elizabeth Luth, PhD, T32 Postdoctoral Fellow, Behavioral Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College

Research documents racial and ethnic disparities in end-of-life (EOL) care, where patients from racial and ethnic minority groups receive more aggressive, burdensome care, and have less access to quality-of-life promoting care at EOL. However, disparities in EOL care are not well understood for the growing population of patients with dementia. Elizabeth will share results from two recent studies of race, dementia, advance care planning, and assessments of EOL care quality and how those findings link to her current research on racial and ethnic differences in terminal hospital care and unfavorable hospice outcomes for patients with dementia.

portrait of Heather DerryHeather Derry is a T32 postdoctoral associate in Behavioral Geriatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine’s Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine.  She completed her PhD in psychology at the Ohio State University, where her dissertation work evaluated how physical fitness impacts cognitive function among post-surgery breast cancer survivors.  She also completed a clinical health psychology internship at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA, with training emphases in geropsychology, primary care mental health integration, and women's addictions treatment.  Heather’s graduate-level research focused on the behavioral and physiological connections between stress, lifestyle factors, and health.  Her current work aims to assess mental health symptoms in seriously ill medical patients during and following hospital discharge, with the goal of enhancing post-discharge mental and physical health.

portrait of Elizabeth LuthElizabeth Luth is a T32 postdoctoral associate in Behavioral Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. She completed her PhD in sociology at Rutgers University.  Elizabeth's graduate research focused on social and demographic disparities in assessments of end-of-life care quality for deceased older adults. At Weill Cornell, she is extending this work by investigating racial and ethnic disparities in quality of care for patients with advanced dementia near the end of life.


Lunch will be served. Metered parking is available in the Botanic Gardens lot across the road from Beebe Hall. No registration or RSVP required except for groups of 5 or more. We ask that larger groups email Lori Biechele at lb274@cornell.edu letting us know of your plans to attend so that we can order enough lunch.

(1) Comment.  |   Tags: aging    BCTR Talks at Twelve    gerontology    health    healthcare    mental health    race    Weill Cornell   

Spring 2017 Talks at Twelve


This semester we welcome speakers from across campus and across the U.S. for our spring 2017 Talks at Twelve series. Talks at Twelve are held in the Beebe Hall second floor conference room and lunch is served. These talks are free and open to all. No RSVP or registration is required, but notice is appreciated if a larger group is planning to attend (email pmt6@cornell.edu).

Wednesday, February 22, 12:00-1:00pm
Mental and Behavioral Health Facilities: Critical Research and Design Recommendations
Mardelle M. Shepley, Design and Environmental Analysis, Cornell University

comfortTuesday, March 7, 12:00-1:00pm
Beyond the Peer-Reviewed Article: Making Research Relevant for Community Stakeholders and Policymakers
Megan Comfort, Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice Research Division, Research Triangle Institute

Thursday, March 16, 12:00-1:00pm
Pain and Presence: The Clinical Use of Media
Andrea Stevenson Won, Communication, Cornell University

Thursday, April 13, 12:00-1:00pm
Healthy Base Initiative: Evaluating Programs to Encourage Healthy Eating, Active Lifestyles, and Tobacco-Free Living
Marney Thomas, BCTR, Cornell University

Thursday, April 20, 12:00-1:00pm
Data Driven Policy-Making in Child Welfare
Dana Weiner, Chapin Hall Center for Children, University of Chicago

Tuesday, April 25, 12:00-1:00pm
Weill Cornell Behavioral Geriatrics: Cognitive Impairment in Hospitalized Adults & Palliative & Mental Health Care
Elissa Kozlov and Keiko Kurita, Weill Cornell Medical College

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Talks at Twelve: Mardelle Shepley, Wednesday, February 22, 2017

 
shepley

Mental and Behavioral Health Facilities: Critical Research and Design Recommendations
Mardelle Shepley, Design and Environmental Analysis, Cornell

Wednesday, February 22, 2017
12:00-1:00 PM
Beebe Hall, 2nd floor conference room



Research on the design of mental and behavioral health facilities is available but limited, although the shortcomings of these facilities are well-known. Dr. Mardelle Shepley will describe design features that are believed to positively impact staff, patients, and families in psychiatric environments and provide information related to their presence in existing facilities. Her research project involved both qualitative and quantitative methods. Dr. Shepley will share results involving a variety of topics including the appropriateness of private rooms, deinstitutionalization, access to nature, and open nursing station design. She will also provide guidelines for mental and behavioral health facilities.

Mardelle Shepley is a professor in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis and associate director of the Institute for Healthy Futures. She serves on the graduate field faculty in the Department of Architecture. A fellow in the American Institute of Architects, she has authored/co-authored six books, including Healthcare Environments for Children and their Families (1998), A Practitioner’s Guide to Evidence-based Design (2008), Design for Critical Care (2009), Health Facility Evaluation for Design Practitioners (2010), Design for Pediatric and Neonatal Critical Care (2014) and Design for Mental and Behavioral Health (2017).

This talk is open to all. Lunch will be served. Metered parking is available in the Botanic Gardens lot across the road from Beebe Hall. No registration or RSVP required except for groups of 5 or more. We ask that larger groups email Patty at pmt6@cornell.edu letting us know of your plans to attend so that we can order enough lunch.

Whitlock on teen self-injury, anxiety, and depression in Time


time coverIn a recent Time Magazine cover story on Anxiety, Depression and the American Adolescent, the BCTR's Janis Whitlock describes the effect of current technology and social media on adolescent mental health:

"If you wanted to create an environment to churn out really angsty people, we’ve done it,” says Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery. Sure, parental micromanaging can be a factor, as can school stress, but Whitlock doesn’t think those things are the main drivers of this epidemic. “It’s that they’re in a cauldron of stimulus they can’t get away from, or don’t want to get away from, or don’t know how to get away from,” she says.

Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery, goes on to describe why youth self-injure:

The academic study of this behavior is nascent, but researchers are developing a deeper understanding of how physical pain may relieve the psychological pain of some people who practice it. That knowledge may help experts better understand why it can be hard for some people to stop self-harming once they start. Whitlock, the director of the self-injury research program at Cornell, explains that studies are pretty consistent in showing that people who injure themselves do it to cope with anxiety or depression.

It’s hard to know why self-harm has surfaced at this time, and it’s possible we’re just more aware of it now because we live in a world where we’re more aware of everything. Whitlock thinks there’s a cultural element to it. Starting in the late 1990s, the body became a kind of billboard for self-expression—that’s when tattoos and piercings went mainstream. “As that was starting to happen, the idea of etching your emotional pain into your body was not a big step from the body as a canvas as an idea,” she says.

The idea that self-harm is tied to how we see the human body tracks with what many teens told me when I interviewed them. As Faith-Ann describes it, “A lot of value is put on our physical beauty now. All of our friends are Photoshopping their own photos—it’s hard to escape that need to be perfect.” Before the dawn of social media, the disorders that seemed to be the quintessential reflection of those same societal pressures were anorexia or bulimia—which are still serious concerns.

whitlock

Janis Whitlock

Whitlock says there are two common experiences that people have with selfharm. There are those who feel disconnected or numb. “They don’t feel real, and there’s something about pain and blood that brings them into their body,” she says.

On the other end of the spectrum are people who feel an overwhelming amount of emotion, says Whitlock. “If you asked them to describe those emotions on a scale of 1 to 10, they would say 10, while you or I might rate the same experience as a 6 or 7. They need to discharge those feelings somehow, and injury becomes their way,” she explains.

The research on what happens in the brain and body when someone cuts is still emerging. Scientists want to better understand how self-harm engages the endogenous opioid system—which is involved in the pain response in the brain—and what happens if and when it does.

Some of the treatments for self-harm are similar to those for addiction, particularly in the focus on identifying underlying psychological issues—what’s causing the anxiety and depression in the first place—and then teaching healthy ways to cope. Similarly, those who want to stop need a strong level of internal motivation.

Teen Depression and Anxiety: Why the Kids Are Not Alright - Time Magazine (subscription required)

Photos by Lise Sarfati from the article - Time Magazine

How social media and tech impacts young minds - Morning Joe, MSNBC (video - discussion of Time cover story)

Save

Save

(3) Comments.  |   Tags: CRPSIR    depression    Janis Whitlock    media mention    mental health    self-injury    video    youth