Self-monitoring of non-suicidal and suicidal self-injurious thoughts and behaviors in daily life
Up to 10% of adolescents and adults engage in non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI; e.g., cutting, hitting) every year and are at increased risk for suicide and various other adverse outcomes (e.g., stigma, depression, interpersonal stress). Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15 - 29 year-olds worldwide. As such, NSSI and suicide represent major global public health issues, especially in young people. Despite this, we still lack the ability to effectively predict NSSI and suicidal behaviours where they occur: in individuals’ everyday lives. Without this knowledge, preventing NSSI and suicidal behaviour will remain a significant challenge. Existing research has relied heavily upon traditional self-report questionnaires using observation windows from months-to-years, lacking temporal precision to capture dynamic fluctuations in NSSI and suicidal behaviour. Fortunately, the proliferation of new technologies have made it feasible to start answering a question of crucial clinical relevance: when are young people at acute risk of non-suicidal and suicidal thoughts and behaviors in daily life? Against this background, this innovative PhD project will harness the power of cutting-edge experience sampling methods and wearable technology to lay the foundation for novel interventions and collect data in two daily life studies: a clinical study with individuals who have engaged in NSSI and another with young adults from the general population who are at risk of developing suicidal thoughts and behaviours. The project will involve developing individual risk prediction models that can accurately detect the risk of NSSI in daily life and investigating dynamic phenotypes of people who self-injure, as well as those at high-risk. The successful candidate will take a leading role in the two studies and will be responsible for conducting interviews with the participants and cooperating with clinicians. In collaboration with their supervisors, the PhD student will develop their own research questions and hypotheses, collect and analyse their data, and write papers for publication in international peer-reviewed journals. The insights from this PhD will pave the way for individualised treatment programmes and in-the-moment ecological momentary interventions for NSSI and suicidal thoughts and behaviours.