From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

Adolescent self-harm

Suicide and non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) are major mental health issues that disproportionately affect adolescents and young adults. In some nations suicide is the leading cause of death among young people; worldwide it is the 3rd leading cause of death among those aged 15-29; around 5-10% of adolescents attempt suicide; and between 7 to 15% of young people have injured themselves (cut, burned, etc) without suicidal intent in order to cope with psychological distress.

The Glasgow Nurse-led Adolescent Self Harm Service treats approximately 200 young people every year who either attempt suicide or injure themselves in order to cope with emotional distress. The service offers young people and their families psychosocial intervention for up to 1-year after the initial incident of self harm. The intervention uses a combination of family, dialectical behavioural and cognitive behavioural therapies to improve young people's psychosocial functioning and reduce suicide risk. This project creates a research database of nearly 2000 patients attending the service in order to:

1: Better understand the changing nature and pattern of attempted suicide and NSSI among young people, i.e. describe the characteristics of patients who attend the service and which of these have changed or remained stable over time.

2: Compare the clinic population with a comparable ‘population’ sample of young people to better understand differences between treated and untreated populations, i.e. estimate the degree of unmet need in the adolescent population.

3: Determine what patient characteristics lead to which improved clinical outcomes such as reduced depression, fewer repeat suicide attempts or incidence of self-injury. In other words, what treatment works best for which type of patient for which clinical outcome? Based on past research and preliminary analysis social and family background and peer influences are likely to be key predictors of clinic improvement.

4: Future work will investigate the influence of family therapists on clinical outcomes and family functioning.

This project builds on past work from the Youth and Health team and has been developed in partnership with the NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Adolescent Self Harm service. Robert Young holds an honorary position with NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde and manages the research database. The project is supported by a Grant from the Chief Scientist Office.



Kelly T, McCafferty E, Metcalfe J, Petrie G, van Beinum M, Young R. Evaluating the Glasgow adolescent self-harm service: a seven-year retrospective investigation: Executive Summary. Scottish Executive Health Department, Chief Scientist's Office, Edinburgh, 2012

open access  


Young R, McCafferty E, Metcalfe J, van Beinum MA. Evaluating the Glasgow adolescent self-harm service: a seven-year retrospective investigation: Final Report. Glasgow, 2011

Young R, Riordan V, Stark C. Perinatal and psychosocial circumstances and risk of attempted suicide, non-suicidal self-injury and psychiatric services use: a longitudinal study of young people. BMC Public Health 2011;11:875

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Young R, Sweeting H, Ellaway A. Do schools differ in suicide risk? The influence of school and neighbourhood on attempted suicide, suicidal ideation and self-harm among secondary school pupils. BMC Public Health 2011;11:874

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West P, Sweeting H, Young R, Kelly S. The relative importance of family socioeconomic status and school-based peer hierarchies for morning cortisol in youth: an exploratory study. Social Science & Medicine 2010;70:1246-53

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Young R. Trauma, attempted suicide and morning cortisol in a community sample of adolescents. Journal of Traumatic Stress 2010;23:288–291

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Young R. Young people and self-harm 2007 [podcast]. Raj Persaud talks to series 2007


Sweeting H, Young R, West P, Der G. Peer victimization and depression in early-mid adolescence: A longitudinal study. British Journal of Educational Psychology 2006;76:577-594


Young R, Sweeting H, West P. Prevalence of deliberate self harm and attempted suicide within contemporary Goth youth subculture: longitudinal cohort study. BMJ 2006;332:1058-1061

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Turner K, Gordon J, Young R. Cigarette access and pupil smoking rates: a circular relationship. Health Promotion International 2004;19:428-436

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Young R, Sweeting H. Adolescent bullying, relationships, psychological well-being, and gender-atypical behavior: a gender diagnosticity approach. Sex Roles 2004;50:525-537

open access