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

Lay Summary:

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.

Research Student: Katherine Bird, BSc, MSc

I obtained my BSc in Psychology and MSc in Psychological Wellbeing and Mental Health from Nottingham Trent University. I recently began my Mental Health Research UK PhD Scholarship investigating and understanding pathways to self-harm and suicide at the University of Nottingham. My research interests include suicide- and self-harm-related stigma, toxic masculinity and its impact on male help-seeking behaviours, and the development of effective suicide prevention interventions. Additionally, I am interested in social constructs regarding suicide and Mental Health conditions and how they promote or discourage help-seeking behaviours and interaction with Mental Health Services in different populations. In my spare time I love reading, hiking, cooking, and baking. 



Create a new online CaTS-E to examine the key patterns of thoughts, feelings, events and behaviours leading to enaction of self-harm in high risk young people (transgender young people and young people with disordered eating) compared to other young people who self-harm. 

Investigate the key transitions where thoughts do not proceed to action (ideation) (CaTS-I). 

Investigate the key transitions that lead to alternative behaviours which could be positive (e.g. yoga) or negative (e.g. bingeing or purging) using the CaTS-AB.

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