School of Psychology

Emma Nielsen

PhD student, School of Psychology,



I completed my final year undergraduate project within the Self-Harm Research Group (University of Nottingham). The work investigated public responses to self-harm; specifically attitudes, perceived intention and help giving behaviour. I then spent a year as a research intern assisting on a project looking at attachment style, problem-solving ability and change in self-harm behaviour, in young people referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). During this time I was trained in the administration and coding of the Child Attachment Interview. Before embarking on my PhD I worked in the NHS, in both community and acute inpatient mental health services.

Teaching Summary

I am involved in supporting the delivery and/or assessment of the following modules:

C81MPR Practical Methods & Seminars in Psychology

C81BIO Biological Psychology

C81COG Cognitive Psychology

I also supervise the SHRG graduate and postgraduate research interns. In 2016 I was nominated for a University of Nottingham Staff Oscar for 'Best Research Supervisor'. In 2017 I was nominated in the 'Teaching - Most Inspiring' category. This student-led award scheme recognises and celebrates excellence in teaching and learning.

Research Summary

My doctoral research focuses on:

  • Self-harmful and suicidal behaviour(s)
  • Coping and well-being
  • Behaviour change, temporal dynamics and the transitions between ideation (thinking about harming) and enactment (engaging in harmful behaviours)
  • Conceptualisations of recovery

I have recently completed an ESRC funded visiting fellowship at Prof. Matthew Nock's laboratory, Harvard University. This research placement focused on longitudinal and microlongitudinal research methodologies, ecological momentary assessment and the translation of research into practice.

I have been awarded the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) Publication Prize (2016-2017) for publications flowing from doctoral research and the University of Nottingham Tri Campus Postgraduate Prize (2017), Dean Moore Award.

During my PhD, I have secured a Research Grant Bursary from the British Psychological Society, Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group (BPS, PsyPAG). I have also been awarded a number of conference grants, including the Grindley Grant (Experimental Psychology Society), the Graduate School Travel Prize (University of Nottingham), an Exceptional Research Training and Support Grant (ESRC) and conference funding via Autistica. I am currently leading a research project exploring conceptualisation of recovery, in relation to self-harm and suicide, using creative mediums. This work is supported by Jonathan's Voice.

I am a co-founder and Editor of netECR, an online platform to facilitate knowledge exchange and collaboration between Early Career Researchers working in Suicide and Self-harm, both in the UK and internationally.

Publications [11]:

  • Wadman, R., Nielsen, E., Brown, K., Williams, A. J., O'Raw, L., Sayal., K. & Townsend, E. (In press). "These things don't work". Young people's views on harm minimisation strategies as a proxy for self-harm: a mixed methods approach. Archives of Suicide Research.
  • Padmanathan, P., Biddle, L., Hall, K., Scowcroft, E., Nielsen, E., & Knipe, D. (2019). Language use and suicide: an online cross-sectional survey. PLoS One.
  • Wadman, R., Williams, A. J., Brown, K., & Nielsen, E. (2019) Supported and valued? A survey of Early Career Researchers' experiences and perceptions of youth and adult involvement in mental health, self-harm and suicide research. Research Involvement and Engagement.
  • Williams, A. J., Nielsen, E., & Coulson, N. S. (2018). "They aren't all like that": Perceptions of clinical services, as told by self-harm online communities. Journal of Health Psychology.
  • Nielsen, E., & Townsend, E. (2018). Public perceptions of self-harm - A test of an attribution model of public discrimination. Stigma and Health.
  • Nielsen, E., Kirtley, O., & Townsend, E. (2017). 'Great powers and great responsibilities': A Brief Comment on a brief mobile app reduces nonsuicidal and suicidal self-injury: Evidence from three randomized controlled trials (Franklin et al., 2016). Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
  • Nielsen, E. & Townsend, E. (2017). Public perceptions of self-harm- Perceived motivations and willingness to help in adolescent self-harm. Archives of Suicide Research.
  • Nielsen, E., Sayal, K. & Townsend, E. (2017). Functional coping dynamics and experiential avoidance in a community sample with no self-injury vs. non-suicidal self-injury only vs. those with both non-suicidal self-injury and suicidal behaviour. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
  • Nielsen, E., Sayal, K., & Townsend, E. (2017). Dealing with difficult days: Functional coping dynamics in self-harm ideation and enactment. Journal of Affective Disorders. [Awarded the Institute of Mental Health Publication Prize 2016-17]
  • Nielsen, E., Padmanathan, P., & Knipe, D. (2016). Commit* to change? A call to end the publication of the phrase 'commit* suicide'. Wellcome Open Research.
  • Nielsen, E., Sayal, K., & Townsend, E. (2016). Exploring the relationship between experiential avoidance, coping functions and the recency and frequency of self-harm. PLoS ONE.

Publications (other) [3]:

  • Padmanathan, P., Nielsen, E., & Knipe, D. (2017). From training to clinical practice: A call to end the use of the phrase 'commit* suicide'. The British Journal of Psychiatry.
  • Nielsen, E. (2017). Reaching beyond the ivory tower: Hints and tips for postgraduates starting out with public involvement or engagement work. The Quarterly.
  • Nielsen, E., & Solder, K. (2015). The Only Way Is Clinical? The Psychologist.

In addition to presenting at national and international academic conferences, I have also presented my research to a number of key stakeholders. These groups include clinicians, healthcare trainees, third sector organisations and service users/ those with lived experience. I have given invited presentations to research institutions in the UK and internationally, as well as contributing to public engagement activities around self-harm and suicide. During my PhD I have worked with a number of charitable organisations, including the Samaritans, PAPYRUS and Rethink.

Selected blog posts/articles:

School of Psychology

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The University of Nottingham
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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