Self harm and Suicide Prevention

Suicide is a global public health concern and one of the leading causes of death in young people worldwide. We seek to understand the underlying factors that drive self-harming and suicidal behaviour in young people with multiple vulnerabilities and use that knowledge to develop targeted interventions. Our vision is to transform our understanding, conceptualisation and response to self-harm and suicide prevention in research, clinical practice, policy-making and community practices.

We're making an impact...

Our aim is to understand how social, environmental, political, psychological, cultural and biological factors interact to make someone more vulnerable to suicidal behaviour or self-harm. Our goal is to develop evidence-based interventions and treatments across healthcare and non-healthcare settings to support vulnerable young people and their families.


Dr Maria Michail (with Dr Anna Lavis) will be Guest Editors of a Special Issue on Self-harm and Suicide Prevention among Young people  for the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 

Our current research

Suicide Prevention in Primary Care

Key people: Dr Maria Michail

Primary care is often the first and last healthcare contact for those who die by suicide including young people. We are developing and evaluating evidence-based interventions training and resources to support GPs in the assessment and management of vulnerable young people in primary care. We are doing this by:

  1. We are developing an electronic clinical decision support system for the assessment and management of suicide risk in primary care.

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2. We are creating an online, educational resource, developed in collaboration with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) to provide GPs with evidence-based recommendations about how to assess and mitigate suicide risk in a consultation. 

3. Dr Maria Michail is co-chair of the International Association for Suicide Prevention Special Interest Group Suicide Prevention in Primary Care

Social Media and Self-Harm in Young People

Key people: Dr Anna Lavis

This study will offer understandings of why some young people who self-injure turn to social media for support and care. Funded by the Wellcome Trust, the study will reflect on the implications, as well as lessons, for prevention and intervention posed by this coming together of self-injury and social media. 

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Longitudinal study of young people with first-episode psychosis

Key People: Professor Rachel Upthegrove

Development of evidence for clinicians to better identify and intervene in depression and suicidal thinking in the context of emerging mental illness: this includes longitudinal study of young people with first episode psychosis, and those at risk of psychosis.

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 Our PhD research

Understanding the role of self-stigma and shame in suicidality and self-harm among LGBTQ+ young people: a mixed methods study

This PhD broadly aims to improve the current understanding of suicidal ideation, behaviour and self-harm within LGBTQ+ young people aged between 16-25 years. Funded by the ESRC, the project follows a sequential, exploratory mixed methods design; built of systematic review, qualitative interviews, and a prospective longitudinal study. This project is coproduced with a LGBTQ+ Advisory Group, allowing those with lived experience of these behaviours and being LGBTQ+ to have an active say in the progression and development of this research. 

PhD Student: A. Jess Williams

Supervisors: Dr Maria Michail, Professor Ellen Townsend (University of Nottingham), Professor  Jon Arcelus (University of Nottingham)

Understanding the development and experience of self-harm in young Pakistani women in Karachi and Birmingham

Funded by the Global Challenges Scholarship scheme under the theme youth mental health, the aim of this research is to explore conceptualisations and experiences of self-harm in Pakistan, and in the UK in those of Pakistani heritage. By exploring culturally driven and migration influenced factors associated with self-harm, we hope to provide the evidence base for more effective prevention and treatment strategies.

PhD Student: Margaret Hardiman

Supervisors: Dr Maria MichailDr Anna LavisProfessor Rachel Upthegrove