A Brief Note about the Self-Harm IATs

Each of the tests on this website asks about sensitive topics, such as self-esteem, alcohol use, and depression. The self-harm IATs ask about how people think about self-injury, death, and suicide. Because these are such sensitive topics, we take these tests very seriously. Below, we address several concerns that we think visitors to the site might have.

Are these tests safe, or could they increase thoughts and desires to harm oneself?

Recent studies have shown that asking people about suicide does not increase the likelihood that they will think about suicide.1 In fact, asking a person if they are having suicidal thoughts makes it more likely that they will get help. Visitors to this website that report suicidal thoughts are given additional information about support resources. Moreover, the self-harm tests on this website have been used before with hundreds of children (10-18 years), adolescents (12-18 years), and adults (18+ years), and have shown no increase in self-harm thoughts or desires. Thus, the available evidence suggests that these tests are safe to take.

Why would you ask about such sensitive topics on a website?

The reason for asking about these topics is that we hope to educate people about implicit mental health. We also hope that the data we collect on these tests will help us to better prevent self-injury and suicide. Right now, it is difficult to predict who will try to hurt themselves, so it is important to do research with large, diverse samples in order to better understand these serious problems. Also, if people report they are thinking about hurting themselves, this web site provides information about resources so that they can get help. Thus, we believe that the potential benefits of this work outweigh the potential risks.

How will the website respond if someone reports suicidal thoughts?

Some people who visit this website will have a history of thoughts about suicide or self-injury, and some may still be having these thoughts. For this reason, this site offers safety features to direct people to clinical resources. Although this site cannot provide personalized clinical care, it has been designed to assist those needing help to find links to clinical services that they may not have found otherwise.

References:
1. Gould MS, et al. (2005). Evaluating iatrogenic risk of youth suicide screening programs: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 293, 1635-1643.

Note: The term "iatrogenic" refers to experiencing more negative outcomes following an intervention, rather than experiencing improvement in symptoms.

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