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Who We Are

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It is a direct expression of thusness or this-moment-as-it-is

- Seo, 2007

"Enso" is a Japanese word meaning circular form and is a symbol from Zen Buddhism that represents enlightenment, strength, connection, and imperfection (Seo, 2007). The enso was chosen as the symbol for ISSS because it reflects the imperfect, cyclical nature of life.

Our Mission

ISSS is an international organisation committed to research excellence, person-centred and evidence-based care, advocacy, and creating research, care, and outreach networks to facilitate collaboration and dissemination.


Conduct and disseminate ethical, accessible, and priority-driven research to advance understanding, assessment, treatment, and prevention of NSSI.

Care & Support

Develop, evaluate, promote, and provide evidence-based care and support to advance clinical understanding of NSSI and its treatment.


Engage in public outreach to improve knowledge of evidence-based prevention, assessment, and treatment for NSSI.


Enhance networking, collaboration, and resource sharing to improve the lives of individuals who engage in NSSI.

Executive Board

Meet the leadership

ISSS is led by a team of experts in the field and comprises researchers, clinicians, students, advocates, and most importantly, individuals with lived experience of self-injury. All members of the Executive Board are democratically elected by the ISSS Membership, with positions holding varying terms. Find open appointments and meet the team below!

From List-Serve to Leaders

Our History

From list-serve to leaders

The International Society for the Study of Self-Injury was established in 2006 by a group of passionate and curious researchers led by Janis Whitlock and Nancy Heath. Today, ISSS boasts more than100 members dedicated to our mission. Learn more below about how ISSS came to be the leading international organisation for the study of self-injury.


​In January of 2005, a year before the first ISSS meeting, the findings of the Adolescent Mental Health Initiative were disseminated in a book titled, Treating and Preventing Adolescent Mental Health Disorders: What We Know and What We Don’t Know. Although intended to summarize the state of the field in adolescent mental health disorders, the volume included no more than half of a page on nonsuicidal self-Injury (NSSI). The absence of NSSI in this volume largely reflected its nominal presence in academic journals prior to this point. Despite its absence in the literature however, its growing presence in clinical and non-clinical settings had begun to command the attention of a small but increasing group of scholars from diverse disciplines. Although acquainted with each others’ work, there were few forums through which these scholars regularly, if ever, came together as a group. 


The First Meeting

In response to this growing gap between the literature and field experience, Nancy Heath’s Research Team at McGill University initiated a list-serve for professionals interested in the study of self-injury. This was a means of encouraging communication among NSSI scholars within and outside of the US. Shortly after this, in 2006, Janis Whitlock and several colleagues from Cornell University invited a small group of NSSI researchers and treatment specialists to attend a meeting devoted to discussion of what we knew, what we needed to know, and strategies for building a larger field of research and collaboration.


The opportunity for exchange created by the gathering was well received and very productive. By the end of the second day, the group had identified a name for the association and plans for continuing ISSS were set. By the group’s second meeting the following year, hosted by Nancy Heath at McGill, over 20 new collaborations had been formed and the group’s membership had swelled considerably. During the third year’s meeting, hosted by Matt Nock at Harvard University, the group collectively decided to begin the process of developing a formal charter and membership. By the fifth year, hosted by David Klonsky at Stony Brook University, we had appointed our first round of officers.

The Organisation Today

Today, we comprise over 100 members and are in our 17th year of research, care, outreach, and connection. ISSS hosts vibrant and intellectually stimulating annual meetings and fosters meaningful and productive collaborations. Although ISSS continues to expand, our commitment to improving the field of NSSI remains unchanged.


Be part of an organisation dedicated to improving wellbeing and reducing stigma, join us today.

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