Developing stakeholder-informed guidelines for acceptable and safe research into suicide.

Mark Robinson MRCVS PhD Scholarship 2020 - University of Manchester

Supervisors: Dr Sarah Peters, Dr Patricia Gooding, and Dr Donna Littlewood


Lay Summary:

Central to ethical research is that it does no harm. Yet, we do not know what this means for research involving people with experience of suicide thoughts and acts. Previous studies have found that taking part in suicide research is generally positive. However some people can experience a short dip in mood afterwards. We don’t know how taking part in suicide research affects people in the longer term or the best ways of supporting research participants. We want to learn what are the most acceptable and safe ways of asking people about their suicide experiences, from participants themselves.


The aims are to 1) assess, from the perspectives of people with lived experience of suicide, how acceptable the different ways researchers commonly study suicide are; 2) find out what the long-term impacts are of taking part in suicide research and 3) develop guidance for researchers on planning and doing safe research into suicide.


Four studies are planned. The first will be a review of the previous research in this area. The second will use a ‘think aloud’ design that explores people’s views of different types of research tools (e.g. questionnaires) whilst they are completing them. The third study will use questionnaires and interviews to monitor the long-term impact of taking part in research about suicide. The fourth study will gather the views from different groups who are involved in suicide research (including people with lived experience, researchers, and ethic committee members) to find out what they think makes suicide research acceptable and safe. These data will be used to develop a set of recommendations for best practice. We hope these studies will teach us how to make sure future suicide research is of high quality and safe.




1. To determine the acceptability, meaningfulness, and appropriateness of validated questionnaires used to measure suicidal experiences.

2. To investigate positive and negative effects of participation in suicide research over time. 

3. To assess the acceptability and efficacy of mood induction techniques used to off-set any negative effects of participation in suicide research. 

4. To investigate the views of key stakeholders with respect to participation in suicide research to inform best-practice guidance.

Research Student: Kerry Hozhabrafkan

Hello, my name is Kerry and I am due to start my PhD at the University of Manchester in October 2020. Following completion of a BSc in midwifery studies I worked as a midwife within a busy inner-city maternity unit and later as a trainee health visitor. An interest in psychology and particularly in mental health developed as a result of working closely with women and families as they navigated intense life experiences, leading to my decision to undertake an MSc Psychology conversion degree. My MSc dissertation was an exploration of women’s experiences of trying to conceive, utilising thematic analysis methodology. Through this degree I have been able to develop my research skills and have gained and understanding of how psychology research can be used to make a positive difference in people’s lives.


I am thrilled and extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to carry out this project, focusing on participation in suicide research. I am looking forward to my research training journey, where assisted by the expertise and guidance of Dr Sarah Peters and Dr Patricia Gooding I hope to deliver impactful research outcomes in fulfilment of this scholarship award.