Understanding pathways to self-harm and suicide ideation in high risk young people: an unmissable opportunity for suicide prevention.

Mental Health Research UK PhD Scholarship 2020 - University of Nottingham

Supervisors:  Professor Ellen Townsend and Professor Jon Arcelus


Understanding and responding effectively to self-harm is a vital element of suicide prevention since self-harm is the strongest predictor we have of death by suicide and is related premature death by other causes. Self-harm is complex and changes over time so we have developed the Card Sort Task for Self-Harm (CaTS) to examine how thoughts, feelings, behaviours and events lead to self-harm in high risk adolescents (those with eating disorders and transgender youth). Using novel statistical techniques, we can uncover the significant patterns amongst key factors (e.g. feeling depressed, behaving impulsively) in the months, weeks, days, hours and minutes leading up to self-harm, and what happens after. Three online studies will investigate (i) which key patterns act as warning signals that self-harm is imminent (ii) why some adolescents have thoughts of self-harm but do not act on them and (iii) why another behaviour is carried out sometimes rather than self-harm. Findings will have significant implications for models of, and treatments for, self-harm and suicidality.