The ‘Listen-Up!’ project: Understanding and helping looked-after young people who self-harm

Principal investigator: Dr Ellen Townsend, Associate Professor within the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham. Website http://www.psychology.nottingham.ac.uk/staff/ejt/  and http://www.psychology.nottingham.ac.uk/staff/ejt/Leaflet%20v4_FINAL.pdf

Co-investigator: Mrs Caroline Harroe, Director, trainer and support worker for the national voluntary organisation Harmless. Mrs Harroe is chairing the advisory group. Website http://www.harmless.org.uk/

Co-investigator: Professor David Clarke, Professor of Psychology at the University of Nottingham. Clarke has a long-term interest and research expertise in sequence analysis.

Co-investigator: Dr Kapil Sayal, Clinical Associate Professor and Reader in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Co-investigator: Professor Panos Vostanis, Professor of child and adolescent psychiatry

Ms Marie Armstrong,  Self-harm clinical lead and clinical nurse consultant based at Thorneywood, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

Dr Ruth Wadman, Research Fellow investigating study 1 based in Nottingham & Leicester.

Miss Alex Berry, Research Assistant investigating study 2 based in Nottingham.

Miss Chelsea Sawyer, Research Assistant investigating study 2 based in Leicester.

Ms Yvonne Cottingham, Team manager for the Nottingham county children looked after and adoption team.

Ms Emma Pearce, Team manager for the Nottingham city children looked after and adoption team.

Pallab Majumder, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist for the looked-after team in Nottingham.

 

Self-harm (intentionally taking an overdose or causing injury with or without the intent to die) is a sign of serious distress and is poorly understood. Self-Harm in adolescents is common and appears to be increasing.  Looked-after young people (living in residential care or with foster parents) are at particularly high risk of self-harmful behaviour (and have more complex needs than other young people who self-harm) (NICE, 2012) yet there is sparse research targeting this group. The projects overall aim is to elicit the views of, and improve our understanding of looked-after children and adolescents who self-harm in order to inform appropriate interventions.

The project is mixed methods, with one qualitative study (study 1) and one quantitative study (study2). In study 1 young people (aged 11-21) and their carers (recruited via community and NHS) will be interviewed to ask what they think got them started with self-harm and what keeps them self-harming. Young people will also be given cards to sort about their thoughts, feelings, behaviours and events which were important to them before they self-harmed.   In study 2 young people (aged 11-21 recruited via community and NHS) will take part in a computer-based self-interview asking about which services are useful and promote recovery from self-harm and which are unhelpful.

We will compare experiences of looked-after young people who self-harm to those of young people who are not looked-after. We shall discover if there are any common patterns of behaviours, events, thoughts or feelings that lead into and out of self-harm.  We will compare experiences of looked-after young people who self-harm to those of young people who self-harm who are not looked-after. We shall discover if there are any common patterns of behaviours, events, thoughts or feelings that lead out of self-harm.  An advisory group of young people are helping design and evaluate the project. The advisory group give their views on self-harm and advise us on the issues that are relevant to them. The advisory group is made up of young people aged 21 or younger who have first-hand experience of self-harm. Some of the young people also have experience of the care system also. Their help with the Listen-up! project is extremely valuable and ensures our research prioritises issues that are important to young people who self-harm.

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