mHealth Interventions for Self-Harm: Scoping Review

Bethany Cliffe, Paul Stallard

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Citations (SciVal)


Background: Self-harm is a growing issue with increasing prevalence rates; however, individuals who self-harm do not often receive treatment. Mobile health (mHealth) interventions are a possible solution to some of the barriers that individuals face when seeking support, and they have also been found to be effective in improving mental health. Thus far, reviews of mHealth interventions for self-harm have been limited by study type. Therefore, we determined that a broader scoping review will provide a more exhaustive understanding of mHealth interventions for self-harm.

Objective: This scoping review aims to identify mHealth interventions for self-harm within the literature, understand the types and features of interventions that have been developed and evaluated, highlight research findings around mHealth interventions for self-harm, and determine what outcomes are typically used to assess the efficacy of interventions.

Methods: A search was conducted using Embase, PubMed, PsycINFO, PsycEXTRA, Web of Science, and the Cochrane Library. Studies were included if they described an mHealth intervention designed to have a direct (ie, if the intervention was designed for self-harm or for people who self-harm) or indirect (ie, if self-harm was measured as an outcome) treatment effect and if the paper was available in English. There were no exclusion criteria based on the study design.

Results: A total of 36 papers were included in the review, and most of them were randomized controlled trials published within the last 4 years. The interventions were mostly smartphone apps and calling or texting services, with 62% (21/34) having underlying therapeutic models to inform the intervention content. They were generally shown to be promising and appealing, but only 5 were widely available for use. Outcomes focused on a reduction of self-harm and suicidality, mood, and the users’ experiences of the intervention. Samples were typically nondiverse, and there was limited variety in the study designs and in the measurements of self-harm recovery.

Conclusions: Promising and appealing mHealth interventions have been developed but are not widely available. Research could benefit from greater diversity as well as a broader and more nuanced understanding of recovery from self-harm.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere25140
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number4
Early online date19 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • Digital interventions
  • MHealth
  • Mobile phone
  • NSSI
  • Self-harm
  • Self-injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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