An interesting PhD Research Scholarship, being carried out by Hannah Scott at University College London

Title: People who have been bereaved by suicide and support from their family and friends: understanding social network interactions and their impact.

Co-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the McPin Foundation, starting October 2017.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       


Supervisors: Dr. Bryn Lloyd-Evans and Dr. Nicola Morant

Lay summary: Previous research has shown that those who are bereaved by suicide can find it difficult to access support (both formal and informal) to help them cope with their loss. This project aims to better understand how a bereavement by suicide impacts on groups of family and friends; to look at the challenges in both offering and receiving support and how social networks can support each other through a bereavement.

To do this, I will carry out individual interviews with friends and family members who have experienced a loss to suicide and talk with them about their personal stories of the support that they both received and offered. By examining different perspectives and the experience of giving and receiving support, we can better understand the challenges in communication that might exist between people bereaved by suicide, and therefore identify what might be the best ways for people to support each other.

The project is supported by a PPI (public and patient involvement) group, who are non-academics with lived experience of bereavement by suicide, and who guide the project to ensure that research methods are appropriate and sensitive, and that aims of the project are useful and applicable outside academia.

Hannah Scott: I graduated from my undergraduate degree in Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London and went on to complete an MSc in Forensic Mental Health Research at King's College London, where my dissertation focused on the fitness to plead of individuals with personality disorder.

Before starting my PhD, I was the lab coordinator for the Hungry Mind Lab, where my focus was on psychometrics: specifically, the development of new assessment tools for imagination.

I’m now based in the Division of Psychiatry at UCL, where I’m in the first year of my PhD programme in Mental Health Care. I’m passionate about mental health research and postvention, and am delighted to have the opportunity to make a contribution to research that will hopefully improve the support available for people across the UK who have been bereaved by suicide.

 The Scientific goal: The scientific goal is to better understand:

  1. The experiences of the friends and family who support somebody bereaved by suicide.
  2. How bereavement by suicide impacts on existing relationship between individuals, and on social networks as a whole.
  3. How the attitudes and actions of both the bereaved and their family and friends impact on the support that is offered and received.

The project will consist of a systematic review of relevant research and a qualitative study. Results from both will be submitted for peer-review publication to further an academic understanding of social support after a loss to suicide and contribute to the wider area of postvention, which is one of the key aims of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy.

Results will also be used to inform a free public resource, which will be designed to help social networks cope with a loss to suicide and provide guidance on how best to support each other through the bereavement.