CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE’S SUICIDE AND SELF-HARM RESEARCH COLLABORATION

ACCELERATOR FUND 

Project period: February – August 2016 

This community previously received Initiator Funding for the project: Children and Young People’s Suicide and Self-Harm Research Collaboration

GW4 community leads

University of Bath: Paul Stallard 
University of Bristol: David Gunnell, Judi Kidger, Becky Mars, Lucy Biddle 
Cardiff University: Rhiannon Evans (PI), Jonathan Scourfield, Nina Jacob 
University of Exeter: Tamsin Ford, Astrid Janssens, Christabel Owens

Project overview

The collaboration specifically focuses on a key evidence gap, namely the dearth of effective programmes available to schools and their staff in supporting students at risk of self-harm. 

Background 

Self-harm and suicide in children and young people remain major public health priorities. Prevalence rates of self-harm in the UK have been estimated at 7-18%. Although self-harm is often categorised as non-suicidal self-injury, there are shared risk factors for both self-harm and suicide.  Equally, self-harm has a strong association with suicidal thoughts and is a predictor of completed suicide. Suicide rates in children and young people are often not made available, and where national level data is issued prevalence is usually underestimated. However recent WHO data indicates that suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15-29 year olds.   

Research has called for extensive investment in innovative school-based prevention of self-harm and suicide. Recent policy has promoted a similar focus, with the both the Welsh Assembly Government’s (2015) Talk to Me 2: Suicide and Self Harm Prevention Strategy for Wales 2015-2020 and the Department of Health’s (2012) Preventing Suicide in England identifying schools as priority places where preventative approaches should be focused due to school staff’s routine encounters with at risk young people. Some progress has been made with regard to school-based suicide prevention intervention, with the multi-centre cluster randomised controlled trial of the Saving and Empowering Young Lives in Europe (SEYLE) programme finding that the Youth Aware of Mental Health Programme (YAM) reduced severe suicidal ideation and suicide attempts at 12 month follow up (Wasserman et al., 2015). To date there is no evidence-based approach for the assessment and treatment of self-harm in schools. The community aimed to build on the findings from their Initiator Award using a large-scale consultation to map existing self-harm prevention and intervention practices and identify intervention needs. 

Project summary 

The community has strengthened relationships between the four universities and resulted in a leading inter-disciplinary research team who are committed to taking forward a programme of work in this area. The funding allowed the community to conduct the first large scale consultation of schools’ self-harm prevention and intervention activities in Wales and South-West England. The results were disseminated to practitioners. The consultation identified a number of evidence gaps that the community intended to use as the focus of future research grant applications.