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Women’s help-seeking behaviour for self-harm – a national cross-sectional study in Sri Lanka (MSc by research)

   Bristol Medical School

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  Dr Duleeka Knipe  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

We are looking for a suitably qualified MSc by research student to study how often women seek help for self-harm in Sri Lanka, and what influences the likelihood of seeking help. Through the Opportunity Bristol scheme, which aims to widen participation in postgraduate research programmes, funding including a stipend may be available for those who self-identify as being from a Black, African, Black British, or Caribbean, or mixed background. In other cases, there is no identified funding, but this would be suitable for those who can self-fund their studies.

Every year 800,000 people die by suicide, with many of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries. South Asia accounts for the majority of suicide deaths and compared to the rest of the world has a unique age profile for women - the rate of suicide and suicide attempts is highest in young women.

The reasons for this are poorly understood as the evidence in low- and middle-income countries is scarce. It is thought that the elevated risk in this demographic group might relate to gender roles, expectations, the dominance of patriarchy, and domestic violence. These influences may contribute to overall risk but also to help-seeking behaviour following a suicide attempt. For example, women who experience domestic violence have a higher risk of suicide attempts, but their likelihood of seeking help may be hindered by their experience of abuse and by the perpetrator. These women are particularly vulnerable and may have a heightened risk of subsequent suicide.

The proposed project will utilise data from the national Women’s Wellbeing Survey in Sri Lanka (n=2,264) and aims to: i) quantify the proportion of women who attempt suicide who report seeking medical attention; ii) assess whether this differs by region using mapping techniques; and iii) explore whether help-seeking for suicide attempts differs by domestic violence exposure. The project may also require a literature review (e.g systematic review/rapid evidence review/scoping review).

The findings will provide evidence for the first time, using a large national survey, on whether women who self-harm always seek help in Sri Lanka. Untreated self-harm, especially those that use specific methods, might result in long term physical ill health. Self-harm is associated with mental distress, and if women are not seeking medical help following an attempt, they may continue to experience mental ill health.   

The student will be supervised by Dr Duleeka Knipe and Dr Sandi Dheensa (University of Bristol). Dr Knipe who is the low- and middle- income country section lead for the Lancet Commission on suicide and self-harm, and is part of the Suicide and Self-harm group at Bristol. Dr Dheensa is a researcher in the Domestic Violence/Abuse and Health Research Group and leads on several mixed-methods studies in the area.

A prospective student must be accepted for entry to a research-related, master's-level programme (as defined by Faculties and specified above) in Academic Year 2021-22;

How do I apply?

Candidates who wish to apply for this 1 year funded MSc by research opportunity should first complete the online application for entry to their preferred programme on the main postgraduate study application page noting their interest in the Opportunity Bristol programme within their application if applicable. Please choose Faculty of Health Science and Population Health MSc (Research). This funding is only available to UK applicants. EU and International students may apply but would need to provide their own funding.

The student stipend will be £15,609 and there will be a £1000 consumables budget.

Candidates who wish to be considered for these awards must submit a complete, online application by 12 Noon on 31 May 2021.

Informal initial enquiries are welcomed: [Email Address Removed]

No research proposal is required at application stage


Opportunity Bristol funding is only available to UK nationals with Home fee status who self-identify as having a Black, African, Black British, Caribbean background, or a mixed background featuring one of these groups. If you are applying from an EU/International country you can still apply but would need to either gain sponsorship from your home country or self-fund to cover the stipend, international fees and a consumables budget.

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