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Understanding, Predicting and Preventing Non-Suicidal Self-Injury and thoughts amongst adolescents (UPP)

Led by Dr Mahsa Honary, Lancaster University, in association with Pennine Care Foundation Trust, University of Sheffield, XenZone Ltd, and HW Communications Ltd

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) is in the top five causes of medical admissions, with 19,000 adolescents attending emergency departments for NSSI in 2015/16; a 14% rise compared with preceding two years. It is thought that up to 40% of youths experiencing NSSI do not seek help due to stigma, and fear of negative reactions. Traditional face-to-face interventions lack capacity to reach these adolescents. Studies identify preference towards online information, due to the anonymity and acceptance it affords. Young people access education, social interactions and entertainment primarily via their smartphone, thus making it a useful device to support access to resources; promote help-seeking and self-management behaviours.

The aim is to design and develop a context-aware mobile application that learns from user’s daily online and physical activities, to flag-up likely early warning signs of self-harm. The app can then offer interventions to support the user in times of need. The project will look into individual’s relationships and social interactions to understand the context of the individual’s experiences and mood dysregulation, and identify early warning signs. The tasks of the larger project include design and development of an app that will:

  1. collect user’s ‘cyber’ and ‘physical’ social interaction data such as location and app usage
  2. collect self-report data
  3. predict occurrence of NSSI thoughts using semi-supervised machine learning
  4. prevent development of NSSI thoughts into action by sending an intervention

The impact on wellbeing could be significant, by promoting self-monitoring, emotional regulation and coping skills.

Presentation from the Stage 1 Update Workshop, November 2017