Informing a digital intervention for self-harm

Theme Mental health

Workstream Psychological interventions

A young girl looks sad because she is being bullied

Previous longitudinal research has helped us understand lifetime/long-term predictors of self-harm thoughts and behaviour (SHTB). Predictors help us identify patients who might be at risk of self-harm in the future. However, these studies tell us little about ‘when’ someone is most likely to self-harm.

Recent technological advances have made it possible to gain insight into SHTB as they occur in daily life. This is done through Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA). EMA uses an electronic diary to record information. It relies on a person assessing the feelings and behaviour they experience, in their natural environment.

Our aim during this study is to identify how much thoughts of self-harm and suicide change over short periods of time. We also want to better understand the factors that lead to these changes.

We will recruit 80 participants, aged 18-25 years who have a history of SHTB in the previous six months. Participants will use their smartphone to respond to a short EMA survey, multiple times a day for a period of two weeks.

We will pair survey data with objective data from a wearable device (measuring sleep, heart rate and activity). This will allow us to capture the changing relationships between physiology, behaviour, and psychosocial processes. We will also conduct interviews with a smaller sample of participants.

The information gained from this study will help to inform the development of a new adaptive digital intervention. This new intervention will combine EMA, psychoeducation and safety planning to reduce self-harm and suicidal behaviour in daily life. For more information on this study, please email: becky.mars@bristol.ac.uk.