Young people share experiences of self-harm at unique event

13 Jul 2017 15:59:15.297

Young people who have experienced self-harm will join researchers from the University of Nottingham to share their experiences of being part of a unique research project at an event on the 23rd July at The Contemporary.

The young people have been instrumental in helping to test and shape a research project led by the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham who have developed a unique Card sort Task for Self-harm (CaTS) to help people understand and talk about the pattern of thoughts, feelings, events and behaviours leading to self-harm. The project is a collaboration between academics, young people with expertise by experience and Harmless (an award winning user-led support service for self-harm and suicide prevention).

As many as 1 in 5 young people self-harm, that is 6-7 people in an average classroom. The card sort task for self harm aims to tackle this by providing a way to map out thoughts and feelings on a timeline leading up to and immediately after a self-harm event. These can then be used to open up conversations and help formulate possible ways to help.  The research team has also been exploring how to use the task with people experiencing eating difficulties.

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Positive response

Professor Ellen Townsend has led the project and said: “The young people who have been involved in our research so far have responded very positively and have actually suggested that the card sort task could be used effectively as an early intervention for self-harm to help people communicate their thoughts and feelings, which is often so hard to to do due to the taboo and complex nature of the issue.”

This event is a spin-off of the ‘Café Connect’ public engagement events led by the School of Psychology. “Getting the public involved meaningfully in research is vital for helping us shape our theories into practical methodology that can then be applied,” continues Ellen, “Involving people with lived experience as part of the research team has really helped us to refine the project and has opened up new avenues which we are now exploring. All of this is input is helping us get closer to our ultimate goal of having a robust intervention technique that will help people who self-harm.”

Creating dialogue

As well as presentations from the young people involved there will also be poetry perfomances from spoken word artists who have experienced self-harm and a Q & A session with the young people, Harmless and Professor Ellen Townsend.

One of the young people who has been a part of the project said: “I've loved being part of the Cafe Connect sessions and developing this task. It will go on to help so many people understand and start conversations about self-harm and eating disorders. It has been a privilege to use my personal experience with self harm to help create something so positive.'

Bevan Dolan, Suicide Crisis Project Worker for the Tomorrow Project team at Harmless said:“Being asked to be at the Café Connect representing Harmless, a local self-harm support service, was wonderful. From my point of view, researchers taking the time to invite and host our service shows a keen awareness of what constitutes not only effective research, but ethical research. I feel it also demonstrates that the researchers made the effort to involve local services in the ongoing discussion about self-harm, and recognise that a collaborative approach to understanding and supporting those who self-harm is a multiagency effort with those with personal, professional, and academic experience all able to contribute and work from the same page.”

The event is free and is on Sunday 23rd July, 6-8:30pm at The Contemporary. If you are interested in registering to attend go to:

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Notes to editors: 

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world's top 100. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our 44,000 students - Nottingham was named University of the Year for Graduate Employment in the 2017 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, was awarded gold in the TEF 2017 and features in the top 20 of all three major UK rankings. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…


Story credits

More information is available from Ellen Townsend on 0115 846 7305,


Jane Icke - Media Relations Manager (Faculty of Science)

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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