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Young people’s self-harm and suicidal behaviour: Developing qualitative research to understand the influence of context and culture


Self-harm and suicidal behaviours (with varying degrees of intent to die) amongst young people are a major, global social and health issue. The topic is relevant to Global Challenges Research Fund, which aims to promote interdisciplinary research, strengthen research capacity, and address sustainable development goals, including good health and wellbeing.  

The experiences (including the meaning, function, impacts and protective factors) of self-harm and suicidal behaviours are culturally determined. To improve theories and optimise interventions, it is vital to understand this. However, most research to date has been undertaken in WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic) cultures. Together, researchers from GW4 and existing partners in Ghana, Brazil, and South Korea will combine their expertise to progress the consideration of culture and context in this research area. This will build on similar work Dr Martin is conducting in Rwanda, funded by the Medical Research Foundation.  


Project Summary

We aim to  

1) To build and strengthen GW4 and international collaboration, with local and international knowledge exchange, and 

2) To develop a refined plan for qualitative research to investigate young people’s and their families’ experiences of self-harm and suicidal behaviours in under-researched contexts, with particular attention to culture. 

We will achieve this by conducting country specific literature reviews and an umbrella review of qualitative research in non-WEIRD settings that focuses on young people’s and their parents’ experiences of self-harm and suicide. We will also map stakeholders and engage in consultation to inform research plans in each of our three contexts.   

An International Congress will take place in Cardiff, bringing together our team and other interested academics from across GW4. This event will mix knowledge exchange and sharing of expertise with the development of detailed plans for future funding applications. These will initially address the lack of quality, qualitative work, working towards intervention development and evaluation of context sensitive prevention and support programmes. We plan to disseminate findings from our literature reviews through conferences, publications, and via existing online communities.  

University of Bath
University of Bristol
Cardiff University
University of Exeter