Study to explore impact of distress intervention on suicide

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A new study is seeking to understand how a ground-breaking intervention designed to support people in distress has impacted suicidal ideation, suicidal behaviour, and self-harm.

The research – led by the Scottish Centre for Social Research (ScotCen) and involving the University of Stirling – will focus on the Distress Brief Intervention (DBI), which was introduced by the Scottish Government to improve the response of frontline service providers to people in distress.

The announcement comes just weeks after it was recommended that the DBI be rolled out across Scotland, following a University of Stirling-led evaluation of the pilot.

The new study – funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research – aims to understand whether and how DBI can reduce suicidal ideation, suicidal behaviour, and self-harm in the short and long term among those presenting to frontline services in distress and crisis. It will provide learning that will inform the continued improvement of DBI and wider healthcare services that feed into it.

Professor Edward Duncan
Professor Edward Duncan
Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport
This study is a further important contribution to the University's programme of work to improve peoples' mental health.

Professor Edward Duncan, of the University of Stirling's Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, said: "I am delighted to see this important study funded and getting started.

"This study builds on recently published research we led with the wider team on an initial evaluation of DBI. It is a further important contribution to the University's programme of work to improve peoples' mental health."

Joanne McLean, Research Director at ScotCen and Project Lead, said: "Many people who die from suicide have unplanned contact with health services in the year before. This study is inspired by people who have told us that they felt DBI stopped them from going on to harm themselves when they were distressed. It will provide crucial evidence to help understand if suicidal and self-harm behaviour can be prevented through the NHS and partner agencies working together on DBI."

Kevin Stewart MSP, Mental Wellbeing Minister, said: "We know from recent independent evaluation of DBI that some people said they may have attempted suicide or continued with suicidal thoughts if the Distress Brief Intervention had not been offered to them. This new research will provide a valuable additional perspective on the impact of DBI on suicidal ideation, suicidal behaviour and self-harm – and will help inform further development of policy and action to support people at risk."

ScotCen and the University of Stirling will work alongside the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, and Glasgow Caledonian University. The study will also be supported by an advisory group of people with lived experience of accessing support in distress.

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