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FULLY FUNDED PHD: Towards an enhanced understanding of suicide risk in young people

   College of Medicine, Veterinary and Life Sciences

About the Project


This PhD is an exciting partnership between the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH, the funder) and the University. It is particularly suited to applicants from a psychology (or cognate discipline) background.

Background: Suicide kills 700,000 people each year globally and it is the leading cause of death in young and middle-aged men as well as being the second leading cause of death among adolescents. Sadly, the suicide rates in Scotland and in the UK have increased in recent years, especially among young people. 

Also, in light of COVID-19, it is crucial that we are vigilant and mitigate against future suicide risk especially among vulnerable groups such as young people, those from more socially disadvantaged backgrounds and those with pre-existing mental health problems. Although there have been many advances in our understanding of suicide risk, there are many gaps in our knowledge and our ability to reach the most vulnerable is limited2,3

There is general recognition that we need to move beyond solely psychiatric explanations of suicide risk, to focus on more complex approaches which integrate a large number of risk factors. 

To this end, O’Connor has developed the Integrated Motivational-Volitional model of suicidal behaviour (IMV), a theoretical model of suicidal behaviour. This tri-partite model maps out the final common pathway to suicide and it identifies the factors which are associated with the development of suicidal thoughts and those that determine whether someone acts on such thoughts, i.e., attempts suicide. 

This model is now recognised as one of the predominant frameworks to understand suicide risk. In this PhD research, using the IMV model as a broad  framework; the successful candidate will work with their PhD supervisors on consultation with colleagues at the Scottish Association for Mental Health to conduct a series of studies addressed suicide risk among young people.

The scope at this stage is deliberately broad but may also suicide risk and prevention in the workplace and consider issues around stigma and cultural influences on suicide as well as psychological influences. 

The PhD will be funded by The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH).

Partnership: We are delighted to partner with SAMH. SAMH is a third sector organisation which operates over 60 services in communities across Scotland providing mental health, social care support, homelessness, addictions and employment services. 

SAMH has a strong interest in suicide prevention and has agreed to fund a fully-funded PhD supervised by Professor Rory O’Connor (primary supervisor) at the Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory at the University of Glasgow (SBRL;

The project will involve both quantitative and qualitative methods.

Both supervisors are located within the Institute of Health & Wellbeing in the in the College of Medicine, Veterinary and Life Sciences. The student will be based on the Gartnavel Royal Hospital site initially and then at the Clarice Pears Building (from mid/late 2022) on Byres Road.

Please contact Professor O’Connor with any enquiries about the PhD.

Funding Notes

UK/tuition fees and a stipend of £15,609 (starting stipend) per annum for 3 years
Applicants will normally be expected to reside (or have residency) within the UK.
Support includes an annual stipend for 3 years, PhD registration fees at UK student rate and research expenses.
Start date: ASAP Autumn/Winter 2021
Applicants should have obtained, or expect to obtain a 2:1 or first class honours degree in a relevant subject.

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