In January of 2005, a year before the first ISSS meeting, the findings of the Adolescent Mental Health Initiative were disseminated in a book entitled, 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 self-injury. In large part, the absence of self-injury in this volume 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 attention of a small but increasing group of scholars from diverse disciplines. Although acquainted with each others’ work, few forums existed in which these scholars regularly, if ever, came together as a group.
In response this the growing gap between the literature and field experience, Nancy Heath’s Research Team at McGill University initiated a list-serve for professionals interested in this area effort as a means of encouraging communication among self-injury 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 self-injury 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 engendered by the gathering was well received and very productive. By the end of the second day, the group had identified an association name and plans for continuing ISSS had concretized.
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 and by the fifth year, hosted by David Klonsky at Stony Brook University, we had appointed our first round of officers.
Today, ISSS boasts nearly 100 members, vibrant and intellectually stimulating annual meetings, and a newly redesigned website and membership forum. Although ISSS continues to expand, our organization’s commitment to improving the field of NSSI remains unchanged.