But for the majority of the videos, promoting self-harm did not seem to be the intention. Often, the videos supplied educational information such as prevalence statistics or shared stories of beating self-harm behavior after many years struggling with it. Still others featured scars and warned viewers against the dangers of using self harm as a means of coping.
For many, posting or viewing the videos may be a means of battling feelings of isolation in those too afraid to admit their behavior to others.
Kevin Caruso, the executive director of Suicide.org says that "based on the countless communications I have had with people who self-injure, the vast majority of information and videos on the Internet helps and comforts self-injurers more than it puts them in danger."
"So many of them feel the Internet is the only place where they can get help," he adds.
While Caruso has spoken with some people who noted that they are easily triggered to self harm by images or talk of cutting, such people usually choose not to watch the videos.
A recent search of self-harm videos on YouTube brought up many in which posters explicitly mentioned that they created the videos in order to reach out so that other self harmers don't feel so alone.
One such video, posted by a user named SoLostInYou, stated in the comments that, "This is to raise awareness and to let others know, they're not alone."
Another, posted by MisunderstoodSoul, talked about the user overcoming cutting: "I've been self harming for over 5 years, but am at the moment on a break from it, and have noticed that ... I DON'T NEED It. Please just give living without self injury a chance ... there are so many things you can do instead. All the best to you my friends, we really can beat this!"
Lewis says that the main purpose of his study is to "get a sense of what exactly is portrayed and contained within these videos."
The study unfortunately cannot speak to why people post the videos or what impact they are having on those who view them, but Caruso and colleagues are doing further research to help elucidate such questions.
"There's been a lot of interest in the last five years concerning the idea of social contagion with these images, but my sense is that we just don't know what impact they are having. We need more research," Gratz says.
For now, the existing research may serve to raise awareness concerning the prevalence of self harm and the fact that many may be suffering in silence.
"All people who self-injure need immediate and professional help, but most do not get it," Caruso says. "They usually hide their cuts or scars below clothing and hide the pain that is causing them to self-injure."