DR RHIANNON EVANS: WHAT HAS GW4 DONE FOR US?

June 24, 2015

Dr Rhiannon Evans, DECIPHer, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University discusses the Children and Young People’s Suicide and Self-harm Research Collaboration.

WHAT IS YOUR AREA OF EXPERTISE?

Our GW4 collaboration brings together a range of experts from Cardiff University (Prof. Jonathan Scourfield, Dr Rhiannon Evans, Dr Nina Jacob), the University of Bristol (Prof. David Gunnell, Dr Lucy Biddle, Dr Judi Kidger, Dr Becky Mars), the University of Bath (Prof. Tamsin Ford, Dr Astrid Janssens, Dr Christabel Owen,) and the University of Exeter (Prof. Paul Stallard) with a shared interest in researching and preventing self-harm and suicide in children and young people.

A number of disciplines are represented within the consortium, including epidemiology, public health, psychiatry, sociology and social work. The grant is led out of DECIPHer, a UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence, which focuses on the development of complex interventions to improve the health of children and young people. Mental health and wellbeing is one of our key work streams.

WHAT ARE THE INTENDED AIMS OF YOUR RESEARCH COMMUNITY?

Establish a formal, cross-centre research network around suicide and self-harm in children and young people.

Secure external funding to undertake a multi-centre programme of work to develop and evaluate theoretically driven intervention(s) addressing suicide and self-harm in children and young people. Key sources of grant income identified include the MRC, NIHR, ESRC and other Government and third sector led funding streams.

To sum, the overarching aim is: to undertake a multi-centre programme of work to develop and evaluate theoretically driven intervention(s) addressing suicide and self-harm in children and young people.

HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH GW4?

We were aware of another colleague in DECIPHer having successfully been awarded a GW4 grant, and the benefits this had conferred in developing new working relationships with other universities. We felt the funding from a GW4 grant would provide us with the space and time to scope the field, consolidate our existing knowledge and expertise, and identify where we needed to move next.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO GET INVOLVED WITH GW4?

A number of individual members had a track record of collaborating on discrete studies. We felt that the establishment of a GW4 community would provide a significant opportunity to underpin these existing study-based collaborations with a strong, inter-disciplinary research network. Such a network would permit more strategic planning for future research, whilst the linking of different methodological and disciplinary specialisms would allow for more innovative grant development.

WHAT HAVE YOU ACHIEVED SO FAR?

In January we hosted a full day workshop at Cardiff University, which drew together researchers, policy-makers and practitioners for a range of presentations and consultation activities. The event was supported by DECIPHer’s School Health Research Network. The workshop was vital in identifying the challenges that schools were facing in supporting students engaging in self-harm and suicidal behaviours, and highlighting where research efforts should be focused. The outcomes of the workshop have informed the direction of the GW4 collaboration, and our programme of work seeks to respond to the needs expressed through the consultation.

PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?

Following the success of the GW4 Initiator Grant, we have met to develop a strategic plan for grant development and submission over the next couple of years. This will commence with an application for a GW4 Accelerator Grant, and be followed by submission for funding to a range of external funding bodies.

FINALLY, WHAT HAS GW4 DONE FOR YOU?

The GW4 community has been imperative in forming new relationships, whilst strengthening existing collaborations across the four universities. It has provided an impetus for us to reflect on the current climate of research and knowledge around the prevention of self-harm and suicide in children and young people. Though consultation with policy-makers and practitioners we have been able to identify where more research is required and how we can best use our expertise to address this major public health concern.