(BRC) The influence of staff-patient communication on mental health safety within services

   Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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  Dr Kamelia Harris, Dr P Gooding, Dr G Haddock  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Suicide deaths are a significant global problem. In 2021, there was a 6.9% increase in registered suicide deaths in England and Wales. The economic burden of suicidal behaviours is significant, constituting a staggering 70% of NHS inpatient care costs. Addressing this crisis necessitates a multifaceted approach, particularly considering that around 90% of suicide deaths are linked to mental health problems, such as psychosis.

Communicating about mental health problems with other people, for example, mental health professionals, friends, and relatives can be hard. It can feel hard to find the right words, especially if you are feeling stressed. It is even harder if you have hallucinatory voices interrupting you or mocking you, or if you feel that you are being watched or followed. People with psychosis can find it difficult to navigate being able to communicate their thoughts, perceptions, and feelings because of their mental health problems but also because others often do not seem to want to genuinely hear. This makes many people with psychosis feel inconsequential, disconnected, and alone. Furthermore, hallucinatory voices and images can be extremely distressing and threatening, and lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts. Therefore, it is important to recognise the difficulties in communication and understand the dialogic techniques and principles that support and encourage open conversations about psychosis and suicidal experiences between different stakeholders in ways that feed into the development of meaningful, collaborative, personalised mental health care.

Overcoming the difficulties around communication about suicidal experiences is essential for developing effective interventions. This project focuses on patient safety by examining service-level, patient, and carer perspectives of communication within services to reduce suicide deaths, distress, and enhance the overall wellbeing of patients, mental health professionals, and carers. Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) is central to the proposed work with a bespoke Expert by Experience (EBE) group feeding into all stages of the project.

Four empirical studies using mixed-method approaches are planned. The first two studies use focus groups and interviews to investigate interpersonal relationship dynamics within services as perceived by mental health professionals, patients, carers, friends, and relatives. The third study uses vignettes to explore different aspects of communication principles and techniques as perceived by patients. The fourth is a Delphi study which aims to establish a consensus on different approaches to effective communication about mental health problems and suicidal experiences from the perspectives of mental health professionals, patients, carers, friends, and relatives.


Applicants must have obtained or be about to obtain a First or Upper Second class UK honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in a relevant discipline.

Before you Apply 

Applicants must make direct contact with the primary supervisor before applying to discuss their interest in the project. It is your responsibility to make arrangements to meet with potential supervisors, prior to submitting a formal online application.  




How to Apply 

To be considered for this project you MUST submit a formal online application form - full details on how to apply can be found on the BRC website https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/study/research/funded-programmes/manchester-brc-phd-studentships/ 

Your application form must be accompanied by a number of supporting documents by the advertised deadlines. Without all the required documents submitted at the time of application, your application will not be processed and we cannot accept responsibility for late or missed deadlines. Incomplete applications will not be considered. If you have any queries regarding making an application please contact our admissions team.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion  

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/study/research/apply/equality-diversity-inclusion/  

Psychology (31)

Funding Notes

This studentship covers tuition fees and stipend and is open to both the UK and international applicants. We are able to offer a limited number of studentships to applicants outside the UK. Therefore, full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.


Harris, K., Gooding, P., Peters, S., & Haddock, G. (2020). Investigating the Perceived Impact of Psychosis on Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors. Schizophrenia Bulletin Open, 1(1), 38.
Harris, K., Haddock, G., Peters, S., & Gooding, P. (2021). The long-term relationship between psychological resilience, psychosis, distress, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Schizophrenia Bulletin Open, 2(1).