Research projects

Support for improving community-based care for self-harm

Lots of people using a pedestrian crossing.We have been commissioned by NHS England and NHS Improvement to support areas in England to improve community-based services and care for people who self-harm. Together with experts from the Manchester Self-Harm Project (MaSH) and NIHR Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (PSTRC), we will support participating areas by providing:

  • Expert knowledge of current self-harm data and research;
  • Guidance on national guidelines and recommendations for the care of people who self-harm;
  • Advise on methods of data collection to monitor and evaluate the impact of service changes for people who self-harm;
  • An online resource to gather useful information in an easily accessible format.

This is part of a national programme funded by NHS England and NHS Improvement linked to establishing new and integrated models of primary and community mental health care across England. Read more about this collaboration here. This work is commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) and funded by NHS England and NHS Improvement.

Reducing suicides: Quality improvement and patient safety

We are working with experts in Quality Improvement at the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (NCCMH) to support Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) to strengthen their local suicide prevention quality improvement plans. This is part of a nationally recognised suicide reduction priority across Department of Health, NHS England, and an overall Mental Health Five Year Forward View recommendation to reduce the suicide rate by 10% by 2020/21.

Together with NCCMH, we are working with Quality Improvement teams in each STP to:

  • review their services against established guidelines and recommendations, and improve the quality of care they offer, using bespoke data provided from the NCISH database, benchmarked against the national average;
  • provide expert knowledge of suicide prevention in three priority areas – mental health secondary care, services for self-harm, and middle-aged men;
  • identify and help STPs adopt and embed national evidence including NCISH “10 ways to improve patient safety” into local quality improvement plans;
  • advise on local data collection and suicide prevention plans.

Read more about this collaboration on NCCMH’s Suicide Prevention National Transformation Programme webpage. The study is commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP).

In May 2019, NCISH were winners of a 2019 Making a Difference award for social responsibility.

Video iconClick here for a video explaining our work on suicide prevention.


Blog iconRead our March 2020 update on the national suicide prevention programme in this blog, by NCISH researchers Nicola Richards and Cathryn Rodway.

Blog iconRead a blog on our work with NCCMH to help local areas improve suicide prevention plans, by the NCISH project manager, Dr Pauline Turnbull.

Download iconDownload a summary of how we help local areas improve suicide prevention plans.


A diverse range of multifaceted, novel projects have been established throughout this programme. See some examples of innovative work being carried out by local areas in the programme.

National academic response to COVID-19 related suicide prevention

We have extended our national suicide prevention support role to include responding to local area’s concerns specific to the pandemic. Read more about our work here.

Blog iconRead a blog on NCISH’s contribution to suicide prevention during COVID-19, by NCISH researcher Nicola Richards.

Suicide by people in contact with drug and alcohol services in the year prior to death

Group sessionAlcohol and drug misuse are key risk factors for suicide. There is currently no national study of suicide by people in contact with alcohol and drug services, and following NHS reforms, service provision has become more complex.

We are conducting a new study investigating deaths by suicide of people under the recent care of alcohol and drug services based on a methodology recommended in our feasibility study. We will undertake this by (1) linking existing data, (2) using existing data for case-control exploration, and (3) collecting and analysing clinical data from Serious Incident Reports.

The study is commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP). Further information on the study design and purpose, and how we comply with data protection obligations, can be found in our study summary and information sheet, and in our Data Protection Impact Assessment document.

Current collaborations and associated projects

We work collaboratively with national and international academic and health colleagues in the area of suicide prevention research. Our ongoing projects are listed below.

Suicide in former service personnel

*NEW* findings from the first phase of the study published as a pre-print, so not yet peer-reviewed.

We found the overall suicide rate was not greater than in the general population, but risk was 2-4 times higher in male and female veterans aged under 25 than in the same age groups in the general population. Male veterans aged 35 years and older were at reduced risk of suicide. Male sex, Army service, discharge under the age of 35 years, being untrained on discharge, and length of service under 10 years were associated with increased suicide risk. Factors associated with reduced risk included being married, a higher rank and deployment on combat operations. 

Read our paper here

This study, with the Ministry of Defence, aims to investigate suicide amongst those who have left the UK Armed Forces, and to make comparisons with serving personnel and the general population. The study will update our previous work from 2009, which showed although the overall rate of suicide was not greater than that in the general population, the risk of suicide in young men who had left the Armed Forces was 2-3 times higher than in the same age groups in the general population. Since this study was carried out there has been no systematic investigation of suicide in UK veterans.

The purpose of the study is to understand the rate, timing and risk factors for suicide for those who have left the UK Armed Forces between 1996 and 2018. The study will include the linkage of data from the Ministry of Defence on all suicide deaths in serving personnel and all personnel discharged from Armed Forces with NCISH data on general population and mental health patient suicides. It will also include a review of coroner’s records and inquest hearings for a sample of veteran suicide deaths. This study will provide more detail of the factors related to suicide (particularly early and recent vulnerabilities, in-service exposures, difficulties after discharge, living circumstances, and contact with a variety of health and third sector providers) in this population.

The study is funded jointly by the Ministry of Defence and NHS England. Further information on the study design and purpose can be found in our study summary and information sheet, and is also available on the GOV.UK website. 

Suicide Information Database Cymru (SID-Cymru) and NCISH database linkage study
This collaboration between the NCISH and SID-Cymru (hosted with the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Database) will link routinely collected data about all individuals in Wales who died by suicide between 2001 and 2015 with clinical data collected by the NCISH on patients in contact with mental health services within 12 months of their death.
Evaluation of the Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust Zero Suicide initiative
A two-year project working with Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust to evaluate their Zero Suicide initiative.

Video iconWatch a video of Professor Louis Appleby talking about the Zero Suicide initiative

Safety in marginalised groups
One of four research themes being undertaken by the NIHR Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre in collaboration with NCISH, to further explore suicide and self-harm by primary care patients.
The impact of suicide in the UK

A survey-based study conducted in collaboration with the Support after Suicide Partnership (SASP) to better understand the impact of suicide on people’s lives, including the support received.

All our research projects

More information on our research projects can be found within the University’s Research Explorer.