Local online self-harm project wins £100,000 research grant

Posted on 4th January, 2008

A Devon-based research team has secured £100,000 from the Department of Health to conduct ground-breaking research into helping young people who self-harm. The researchers are from the University of Plymouth, Peninsula Medical School and Devon Partnership NHS Trust. The award is one of seven new health research proposals being funded to investigate a wide range of areas that have the potential to be of real benefit to the NHS and its patients. Commenting on the grant, Dr Christabel Owens, Head of Research at Devon Partnership NHS Trust and Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Peninsula Medical School, said:  “Self-harm is an area of increasing concern across the country and the South West is no exception.  We are seeing an increase in the incidence of self-harm among young people and we need to be creative and imaginative in how we provide information and support for young people, their families and friends.  We also need to think about how we arm our health and social care professionals with the knowledge and skills they need to address issues around self-harm. “Those who self-harm have often been caught up in damaging relationships or had very painful experiences, such as abuse, bullying or loss, which result in low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness and lack of control.  When these feelings become unbearable, self-harm can be a way of dealing with them.  Other young people may be persuaded to engage in self-harm because their peers are doing so.  “Most of those who engage in self-harm do not intend to kill themselves, but it can escalate and does sometimes result in serious injury, unintentional death or suicide.  A high percentage of people who take their own lives have previously engaged in deliberate self-harm. “Young people are often reluctant to seek help from health professionals, particularly for emotional and psychological difficulties.  Professionals, for their part, often lack confidence in talking to young people about self-harm.  This project aims to open up new channels of communication between young people and professionals using internet chat rooms and message boards, which offer an accessible, non-threatening and democratic setting in which to share knowledge and experience. “The grant will enable us to develop a range of online learning opportunities and forums and to research the impact that they have in helping us to tackle the very complex and sensitive issue of self-harm.  We are hopeful that the research will make a major contribution to the way we help those who self-harm and also the way in which we educate others about it.” A recent study carried out in UK schools reported that 7% of pupils aged 15-16 had self-harmed and 15% had thought about self-harm during the previous year.  Although this does not sound significant, it equates to approximately 75,000 young people aged
15-16 engaging in self-harm and 162,000 thinking about harming themselves each year. Self-harm can take a number of forms, including cutting, biting, pulling out hair, overdosing, starving or swallowing inappropriate objects. These new awards are being made as part of a new National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funding programme called Research for Innovation, Speculation and Creativity, or RISC.   NIHR will allocate up to £5 million per year for this programme to make awards of up to £100,000 each. Notes This news release presents independent research commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The views expressed in this release are those of the author and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health. About NIHR
The National Institute for Health Research provides the framework through which the research staff and research infrastructure of the NHS in England is positioned, maintained and managed as a national research facility.  The NIHR provides the NHS with the support and infrastructure it needs to conduct first-class research funded by the Government and its partners alongside high-quality patient care, education and training.  Its aim is to support outstanding individuals (both leaders and collaborators), working in world class facilities (both NHS and university), and conducting leading edge research focused on the needs of patients. www.nihr.ac.uk Research for Innovation, Speculation and Creativity (RISC)
The RISC programme provides small, discrete grants for new speculative and radical health research proposals that could lead to a step change in the care and management of patients. RISC awards are intended particularly for speculative, novel proposals that are unlikely to gain support during traditional peer review processes. The NIHR RISC Programme is funded by the Department of Health. The annual competition is managed by the NIHR Central Commissioning Facility. www.nihr-ccf.org.uk