Prof Shares Personal Struggle with Self-Injury

“I was 15 the first time that I cut myself, the first time that I self-injured.”

That’s how Prof. Stephen Lewis, Department of Psychology, begins his 2015 TEDx talk, titled “Skeletons in my Closet,” which he delivered in Guelph in February. Lewis is known for his research on self-injury, but this is the first time he publicly shared his own story. He hopes to enhance understanding about self-injury and most importantly, let others struggling with self-injury to know they are not alone and that recovery is possible.

“I wanted to give voice to an issue that is otherwise silenced and convey hope to those who may not have much hope in their lives. They need to know they are not alone and that recovery is possible,” he says.

“In some ways, it was almost liberating. You are masking a part of yourself for so long. It was easily the most difficult but the most meaningful talk I have ever given.”

One in five adolescents and young adults will deliberately injure themselves, often by cutting or burning. Despite the prevalence of the behaviour, self-injury is often misunderstood or stigmatized. Lewis says that people will often make comments such as “It’s disgusting”, “It is attention seeking” or “It’s manipulative.”

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