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Mental Health Research UK Suicide PhD Scholarship: Understanding pathways to self-harm and suicide ideation in high risk young people: an unmissable opportunity for suicide prevention.

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, March 01, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Self-harm is a crucial element of suicide prevention that is now recognised in government strategy (Department of Health and Social Care, 2017). Self-harm - any act of intentional self-poisoning or self-injury - regardless of suicidal intent is the strongest known predictor of death by suicide (Hawton et al, 2012) with 50% of young people who die by suicide having previously self-harmed (Rodway et al, 2016). Self-harm and suicide rates in young people are increasing (Morgan et al, 2017) and suicide is now the leading cause of death in 5-19-year olds in England and Wales (ONS). At no time in life does the risk of suicide escalate as significantly as it does in the mid-to-late teenage years (NCISH, 2017). Thus, understanding the multidimensional factors associated with self-harm and suicidality is vital for intervention and prevention efforts. However, these factors are often examined in isolation (or with a few other factors), or over long time periods – significantly limiting their predictive utility.

To overcome these issues, we have developed the Card Sort Task for Self-Harm (CaTS) (Townsend et al, 2016) which captures the temporal dynamics and the individual complexity of the factors leading to self-harm. Understanding the roles of time and complexity is a current unmet need in in self-harm research. This work will focus on two specific adolescent populations where risk of self-harm is extremely high: those who experience problems with eating and LGBTQ+ youth (focusing on high risk subgroups is recommended by experts in the field).

The PhD student will develop an online version of the CaTS to be evaluated. This will involve a series of qualitative and quantitative studies and working closely with the high risk communities that the study targets. This approach will afford comparisons of sequences between different groups of young people who self-harm enabling the identification of group-specific key tipping points and new mechanisms that lead to self-harm.

Candidates will require excellent IT skills and have experience of using experimental software packages such as PsycoPy or Inquisit, or similar. Thus, candidates with previous experience using advanced statistical methods and software programming will be particularly encouraged to apply. Applicants must have a suitable masters level qualification.

How to apply

Suitably qualified applicants are invited to apply by email following the instructions below.

Please email your application to clearly marked with the header ‘MHRUK PhD application’. The application should consist of one document, no more than three pages in length presented in 12-point font. The first two pages of the application should detail the applicant’s CV which must contain a personal statement about why the candidate wishes to do the PhD. The final page (also in 12-point font) should comprise a brief research proposal demonstrating how the candidate would develop the ideas outlined in the PhD advert.

Deadline: 1st March 2020.

Interview date: 25th March 2020.

Informal enquiries should be directed to Professor Ellen Townsend

Funding Notes

This 4-year studentship is funded by a Mental Health Research UK Suicide PhD scholarship and will be supervised by Professor Ellen Townsend (School of Psychology) and Prof Jon Arcelus (Institute of Mental Health). The student will be based in the Self-Harm Research Group within the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham and will benefit from the strong collaboration with the Institute of Mental Health. The studentship will provide a stipend to cover living costs and will cover Home/EU University fees. It is important that the student be in a position to commence their doctoral study in September 2020.

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