Suicide and self harm

‌Suicide is one of the leading causes of premature mortality in the UK with an estimated one million suicides worldwide.  Bristol hosts a vibrant community of quantitative, qualitative and clinical researchers whose common aim is to better understand the causes of suicide and suicidal behaviour so as to inform clinical and population based prevention strategies. Two of the world’s largest trials of self-harm prevention were led by Bristol researchers.

Key resources

Key resources for research into suicidal behaviour in Bristol include:

  • The Bristol Self-Harm Surveillance Register and strong links with local liaison psychiatry services
  • Repeated measures of self-harm in the ALSPAC cohort (n=13,000 participants)
  • Extensive experience interviewing suicidal individuals
  • Expertise in using CPRD for pharmacoepidemiological research
  • Strong collaborative links with leading suicide researchers in particularly Taiwan, Sweden, Norway, Hong Kong, Denmark, Sri Lanka and the USA.
  • Excellent working relationships with WHO, the Samaritans and local service users
  • A £1.7 million NIHR Programme Grant for Applied Research into suicide prevention (2012-2018)

Bristol's suicide and self harm research interest group (SASH) meets monthly with informal presentations on ongoing research projects, invited guest speakers and journal club style presentations. Contact Dee Knipe () for further details.

Academics working in this area: Lucy BiddleJenny DonovanDavid GunnellChris MetcalfeJohn PotokarPaul Moran, Kyla Thomas,  Becky Mars,  Dee KnipeWill Hollingworth, Judi Kidger,  Helen Lambert,   Prianka Padmanathan,  Maria Barnes.

Selected current grants

  • NIHR Programme Grant: Gunnell D, Hawton K, Kapur N, Donovan J, Potokar J, Hollingworth W, Lennon S, Davies R, Cooper J, Saunders K, Davies L, Metcalfe C, Longson D, Claydon D, O’Connor R. A multi-centre programme of clinical and public health research to guide health service priorities for preventing suicide in England NIHR 2012. £1,765,660 (ref No. PGfAR RP-PG-0610-10026) 1 April 2012-31 March 2018 (link: 
  • NIHR Biomedical Research Centre Bristol 1 April 2017-31 March 2021. Mental Health Theme: £2,170,000. Gunnell D, Zammit S, Wiles N, Kessler D, Moran P, Feder G, Munafo M, Penton-Voak I, Lewis S, Hickman M, Rai D

Selected publications

  • Moore TH, Kapur N, Hawton K, Richards A, Metcalfe CGunnell D. Interventions to reduce the impact of unemployment and economic hardship on mental health in the general population: a systematic review. Psychol Med 2017; 47: 1062-1084
  • Knipe DW, Chang SS, Dawson A, Eddleston M, Konradsen F, Metcalfe C, Gunnell D. Suicide prevention through means restriction: Impact of the 2008-2011 pesticide restrictions on suicide in Sri Lanka. PLoS One 2017;12(3):e0172893
  • Biddle L, Derges J, Mars B, Heron J, Donovan J, Potokar J, Piper M, Wyllie C, Gunnell D. Suicide and the Internet: changes in the accessibility of suicide-related information between 2007 and 2014. J Affect Dis 2016; 190: 370-375. 
  • Thomas K, Martin R, Knipe D, Higgins J, Gunnell D. Risk of neuropsychiatric adverse events associated with varenicline: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2015;350:h1109   DOI:
  • Kidger J, Heron J, Leon DA, Tilling K, Lewis G, Gunnell D. Self-reported school Experience as a Predictor of Self-Harm During Adolescence: A prospective cohort study in the South West of England (ALSPAC). J Aff Disorders 2015;173: 163-169 DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2014.11.003
  • Ougrin D, Trannah T, Stahl D, Moran P, Asarnow J. (2015). Therapeutic Interventions for Self-harm in Adolescents: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.  Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 54(2):97-107
  • Mars B, Heron J, Crane C, Hawton K, Kidger J, Lewis G, Macleod J, Tilling KGunnell D. Clinical and social outcomes of adolescent self-harm: Findings from the ALSPAC birth cohort. BMJ 2014;349:g5954 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.g5954
  • Carroll R, Metcalfe C, Gunnell D. Hospital Presenting Self-harm and Risk of Fatal and Non-fatal Repetition: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. PLOS ONE 20149(2):e89944. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089944
  • Aschan L, Goodwin, L, Cross S, Moran P, Hotopf M, Hatch S (2013). Suicidal behaviours in South East London: Prevalence, risk factors and the role of socio-economic status. Journal of Affective Disorders. 150(2), 441–449.
  • Owens, C., Lambert, H., Donovan, J., Lloyd, K. Tales of biographical disintegration: How parents make sense of their sons’ suicides. Sociology of Health and Illness, 2008;30(2):237-254                                
  • Borschmann, R., Becker, D., Coffey, C., Spry, E., Moreno-Betancur, M., Moran, P*., & Patton, G*. (2017). Twenty-year outcomes in adolescents who self-harm: a population-based cohort study. Lancet Child and Adolescent Health (in press). 
  • Pearson R, Campbell A, Howard L, Bornstein M, O’Mahen H, Mars B, Moran P. Impact of dysfunctional maternal personality traits on risk of offspring depression, anxiety and self-harm at age 18 years: a population-based longitudinal study. Psychological Medicine (in press). 
  • James K, Samuels I, Moran P, Stewart D. Harm reduction as a strategy for supporting people who self-harm on mental health wards. Journal of Affective Disorders (in press). 
  • Pitman A, Rantell K, Moran P, Sireling L, King M, Osborn D.  Support received after bereavement by suicide and other sudden deaths. BMJ Open (in press).
  • Rowe S, French R, Henderson C, Ougrin D, Slade M, Moran P (2016). Decisional support for young people who self-harm: Protocol for a feasibility trial.  BMJ Open 2016;6e012161 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-012161. 
Image from World Health Organization - Suicide prevention (SUPRE) website. Image credit: World Health Organization
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