Please see below for information about SBRL news:

Podcast & new open access paper on IMV model

posted Jul 16, 2018, 12:50 PM by Karen Wetherall

Rory O'Connor & Olivia Kirtley (KU Leuven) publish latest version of Integrated Motivational-Volitional Model of Suicidal Behaviour (IMV model) in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.  Paper available here.

Also, check out Rory O'Connor's new 10 min podcast about IMV model below  ⏬

YouTube Video

Review of Matt Haig’s latest book Notes on a Nervous Planet

posted Jun 30, 2018, 10:22 AM by Karen Wetherall   [ updated Jul 2, 2018, 3:29 AM ]

Rory O'Connor's Notes on Matt Haig’s latest book Notes on a Nervous Planet

I was delighted to find Notes on a Nervous Planet (Canongate) on the shelves of WH Smith at Gatwick Airport on Tuesday (a little ahead of 5th July, the scheduled publication date). I am a big fan of Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig’s personal memoir about suicide risk, depression and anxiety.  I was keen to see what Matt would do next with the RTSA follow-up. And I wasn’t disappointed. Here are my notes (see what I did there Jon a NOANP including some brief thoughts that came to mind as I read the book.

I had the pleasure of doing two book festivals with Matt when RTSA was published a couple of years ago. And I remember joking with him at the Cheltenham Literature Festival (where I interviewed him on stage about RTSA) that when I had agreed to interview him I hadn’t yet read his book - and was concerned that it would be another wishy-washy self-help book – which, if true, would have made our gig together a tad tricky! Thankfully it wasn’t; it was eloquent, touching and it really resonated with me, like it did for countless thousands of others.  Indeed, I know of many people who struggle with living daily who have said that RTSA has helped them while in their own tunnels of despair.

On Tuesday, when I got my hands on NOANP, I had a slightly different concern. Would his writing resonate with me again and live up to the promise/delight of RTSA? I am pleased to say that it does – but it is different; in some ways it is a follow-up to RTSA, delivering a personal narrative interweaved with general observations but in other ways it is not, as it goes much further beyond his personal experience than in RTSA, drawing more on research (and other) evidence.  I also felt that it had more of an explicit self-help feel to it.   No bad thing, though. It also covers the challenges of modern life, which other books do, but he does so in an accessible, personal and engaging way.

I read NOANP in one extended sitting today (accompanied by seemingly unending Glaswegian sunshine which I spent the morning and afternoon trying to avoid burning in).  So, what follows are my very immediate reflections (with little editing, so apologies for any typos etc).  Unlike RTSA, NOANP focuses on how “the world is messing with our minds” and offers suggestions on how we can be happier in a chaotic and technologically-driven world.  Climate change, social media, psychology, social comparison, fake news, cosmetic surgery, loneliness, work, phones, the sky and psycho-grams all get a mention.

Like RTSA, Matt draws upon his own experiences of anxiety, panic disorder and depression - and much more besides. His descriptions of his own struggles are beautifully written and emotion-laden; once again conveying the complexity of his, as well as all of our mental health.  Late in the book, the importance of keeping everyday concerns in perspective is brought home to him when his mother undergoes major surgery.

Nobody writes lists better than Matt Haig does.  I wish I could write lists like Matt Haig does.

Even when Matt is writing about something that we already know (e.g., the pros and cons of living in a more connected world, the internet and so on.), he always manages to make me think anew about it – and through his eloquent prose, I cannot help but reconsider how it affects my life and my world. 

Two observations from NOANP:

Distraction isn’t a long-term solution.

Life is not a tequila to be slammed.

A personal observation: Everyone should read Bonjour Tristesse (by Francoise Sagan) which is mentioned a couple of times in NOANP. I read it for A-Level French and I can still remember being transfixed by it: I learned about sadness and the appreciation of living from reading it. It was clearly also a big hit with Matt!

As the title of the book suggests, some of chapters are brief, personal observations – notes – and others are much longer, integrating concerns about the world with evidence. I really liked the mix as I did in RTSA. I especially like the imagery that some of the brief chapters evoke (e.g., ‘A note from the beach’, ‘Maybe’). Similar to RTSA, each chapter has a standalone message, as well as contributing to the broader narrative of navigating a messy world in hopefully a safer and more meaningful way.  There is something for all of us in the book.

Best phrase: “invisible cyclone” to describe a panic attack.

Best chapter title: “The mannequins who inflict pain” (or “I am what I am what I am”).

Good advice: “Never let a stranger’s negative opinion of you become your own negative opinion of you.” p.229

Made me smile: Matt describing when his wife Andrea chastises him for being on the internet: “She held up her palm. ‘Okay. I don’t want the TED talk.’” p.98.

NOANP in 8 words: stimulating, compassionate, thoughtful, engaging, human, hope, perspective, wellbeing 

Key messages for me from NOANP: 

1   Uncertainty is a certainty and that’s okay. 

2   Be in the now, not yesterday or tomorrow 

Conclusion: I always learn and feel more from reading Matt Haig. And it makes me a better person. Bookshops are a much better place as a result of his work. If RTSA was for you, then so is NOANP. So go buy it.

 Rory O’Connor

 30th June 2018






Insight: What tips men over the edge of despair?

posted Jun 1, 2018, 3:00 PM by Karen Wetherall   [ updated Jun 1, 2018, 3:04 PM ]

Check out Dani Garavelli's recent long read article on male suicide that was published in Scotland on Sunday recently. She interviewed a range of contributors including SBRL's Rory O'Connor (pictured below; photo credit: John Devlin). 

"The suicide rate among men is on the risk again.  Dani Garavelli asks why so many wait so long to find support and treatment for depression."  Read the full article here. 

Ask The UofG Expert – Suicide Research & Prevention

posted May 7, 2018, 11:55 AM by Karen Wetherall   [ updated May 15, 2018, 12:19 PM ]

Professor Rory O’Connor, Director of the Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory, was live on the UofG Facebook page on Wednesday 9 May to answer any questions about suicide research and prevention.
MVLS Communications Officer Elizabeth McMeekin interviewed Rory and asked him your questions on Facebook.  

This was the second in the series of ‘Ask the UofG Expert’ live facebook videos. 

The series aims to provide an interactive platform to allow audiences to engage with our research.

The Facebook Live Q&A is available to watch again here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues discussed in our Facebook Live and would like to talk to someone, please reach out. Support is available at any of the following places


Free and available 24 hours a day to provide confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which may lead to suicide.

Breathing Space

Free and confidential phoneline service for any individual, who is experiencing low mood or depression, or who is unusually worried and in need of someone to talk to. The phoneline is open 24 hours at weekends (6pm Friday - 6am Monday) and from 6pm to 2am on weekdays (Monday - Thursday).

You may also wish to contact your GP or another healthcare professional.

New paper on Integrated Motivational-Volitional (IMV) Model

posted Mar 23, 2018, 7:57 AM by Karen Wetherall   [ updated Mar 23, 2018, 7:58 AM ]

In a new paper, Rory O'Connor and Olivia Kirtley provide their latest thinking on the Integrated Motivational-Volitional Model (IMV) of suicidal behaviour including some refinements of the model since its original exposition in 2011 (see Figures 1 & 2, below).  They describe the theoretical origins of the IMV model, the key premises underpinning the model, empirical tests of the model and future research directions.

New blog by SBRL member Tiago Zortea

posted Feb 15, 2018, 2:23 AM by Karen Wetherall

Suicide research without borders: The travel diary of a ‘SBRL ambassador’

When people ask me where I am from, I always play a game and ask them back where do you think I am from. After some guessing, I generally say that ‘I am half Italian, half Portuguese but born in Brazil’. But I also speak Spanish, live in Scotland and have a Glaswegian heart! Although this might sound like an identity crisis, I must admit that it is very nice to have so many influences and being able to communicate in different languages, learning and celebrating diversity. As a researcher, this not only helps me to learn from what has been published in the countries where those languages are spoken, but it also opens doors for collaborations and new friendships within our field. At the beginning of 2018, I was lucky enough to collaborate with Brazilian and Portuguese suicide researchers and clinicians, which made feel like a ‘SBRL (Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory) ambassador’ in parts of the Portuguese-speaking world.

 My collaboration trip started on the 13th January in the city of Vitoria (Brazil). Since I am a clinical psychologist researching suicidal behaviour, I was invited by a Brazilian clinician, Diego Souza, to deliver a workshop on psychotherapy with patients at suicide risk. Over 90 clinicians including psychiatrists and clinical psychologists attended. Practical procedures on clinical intervention were taught through the lens of the IMV model of suicidal behaviour and, for the first time in Brazil, David Jobes’ CAMS approach (Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality) was presented as a new programme with a growing evidence base to work with patients who are suicidal. The workshop was extremely productive: lots of knowledge exchange and very good feedback from attendees.

My second stop was on the 20th January in the biggest city of Brazil – São Paulo – where I was invited by the Dialectica Psychotherapy Institute to give a workshop on single interventions with patients following a suicide attempt who had been discharged from emergency departments or discharged from psychiatric inpatient care. More than 40 clinical psychologists and psychiatrists attended the course where, also for the first time in the country, Gregory Brown’s and Barbara Stanley’s Safety Planning Intervention (SPI) was presented as a tool for this modality of intervention. Theoretically, the SPI was framed as working on volitional moderators within the IMV model, acting to reduce the likelihood of suicidal thoughts to be translated into a suicide attempt. In the workshop, I also mentioned the current SBRL SAFE TEL project and that we are looking forward to learning about the results of this important work. Finally, my last course in the country was in Brasilia (Capital of Brazil) on the 26-27 January at the invitation of the Atitude Courses Institute. I delivered the same workshop as I had done in Vitoria with about 50 clinicians in attendance. My time in Brazil has been very constructive and positive, and I left the country with quite few other invitations to return next year - which is really exciting.

My final trip was to my mum’s homeland – Portugal. As a result of attending IASR ECR’s Breakfast in Las Vegas, I had the pleasure of meeting Professor José Carlos Santos, from the University of Coimbra, Portugal. Over the past 10 years, Prof Santos’ lab in Coimbra has conducted important research projects within suicidology - indeed one of them is a key reference for the first empirical study of my thesis! After the conference in Vegas, Prof Santos kindly invited me to be one of the speakers at the International Winter Seminar on Suicidology, organised by him and his lab in Coimbra. The event was extremely productive, informative and thought-provoking, with speakers from different parts of Portugal, Brazil - and me representing Scotland. It was very nice to learn about different research and intervention projects, including Prof Santos’ lab’s huge suicide prevention programme, +Contigo, which has been conducted in Portuguese schools with impressive results. My talk presented the results of the first empirical study from my PhD which is investigating perceptions of past parenting and attachment as diatheses for suicidal ideation within the context of the IMV model. The seminar finished with plans of collaboration and an invitation from me to our 3rd EMCR Forum in the summer in Glasgow.

What is next? Well, next is a thesis to finish writing up and I can say that all these experiences were unique, and they boosted my energy to finish my PhD this year! I want to thank all Brazilian researchers and clinicians who made those workshops in South America possible, to Prof Santos for such a kind invitation and with whom I learned so much, and finally to my supervisor Rory O’Connor who supported my desire to collaborate internationally within the Portuguese speaking world.

Obrigado a todos!

Tiago Zortea

Registration open for EMCR Forum 2018

posted Jan 16, 2018, 4:03 AM by Karen Wetherall   [ updated Jan 16, 2018, 5:18 AM ]

Registration for the Early and Mid-Career Researcher (EMCR) Forum is open! Book your place by going to the information page 

Safety Planning (Safe Tel) and Suicidal Behaviour Study: December 2017 Update

posted Dec 4, 2017, 7:14 AM by Karen Wetherall   [ updated Dec 4, 2017, 7:38 AM ]

Phase 3 of the Safe Tel study will begin in January 2018; please click on the link for information about how phase 2 has been progressing or double click on the photos below: Safe Tel December Update

SBRL Blog: Combining PhD Studies with a full time career in the NHS

posted Nov 23, 2017, 5:10 AM by Karen Wetherall   [ updated Nov 23, 2017, 5:15 AM ]

by Dave Sandford (SBRL PhD student and 
senior psychotherapist within IAPT)

Working full-time in a busy NHS service and being six years away from retirement are probably not part of the usual profile of a prospective PhD student! After considering it to be a mere pipe dream for many years, it turned out that the biggest barrier to undertaking a PhD for me was my own self-doubt as to whether embarking on this course of research was viable for someone at this stage in their career.

I have since overcome this self-doubt and I am currently in the second year of a five year part-time PhD within the Suicidal Behaviour Research Lab (SBRL). I also work full-time as a senior psychotherapist within the Cumbrian Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service in England. My PhD is focused on understanding the factors that may adversely affect mental health practitioners from engaging effectively in suicide prevention activities.

Combining the two roles is proving to be the highlight of my entire working life – but doing a PhD was an opportunity I could easily have missed. My intention in writing this is to hopefully encourage others – at different stages in their careers – to consider a similar path. I have been reflecting on my decision to undertake a PhD following my attendance at the recent Early Career Researchers’ (ECR) forum on suicide and self-harm in Glasgow earlier in the year (when my PhD supervisors recommended that I attend the ECR Forum, I was only half joking when I said surely I didn’t qualify!).

To that end here are some observations based on my experience to date:

· I have known many people who approach the end of their careers counting down the days to retirement and I think the best way to overcome this is to continue seeking out opportunities for learning and developing knowledge and skills.

· Enthusiasm and output come in peaks and troughs, so when you feel in a trough remember that a new wave of motivation will soon arrive!

· As was recently explained to me, the best Research Labs in which to work are those that are competitive as a unit, in terms of research output, but internally are supportive and encouraging.

· The benefits to yourself of doing a PhD are obvious (e.g., skills and knowledge development) but don’t overlook the benefits of transferring the PhD-related skills back to your workplace (there is growing interest in practice-based research) and also remember the real world experience that you can bring to your research lab.

· Something to consider though: It needs to be the right time to fit the PhD into your individual life circumstances – it’s a huge commitment. With a lot of support I did an MSc when my children were young, but the time commitment and challenge of a PhD are considerable, so you need to be confident you have the resources to cope with the inevitable ups and downs of a PhD.

· Avail yourself of every opportunity to attend events at the University and link up with other lab members and other researchers outwith your University (and the ECR Forum is great in this regard) – this will be invaluable and will help to recharge your batteries.

· I have found it helpful to approach each stage of my PhD as a no-lose situation. For example, when I first floated the idea of pursuing a PhD with my work supervisors they were very supportive so even if the application for funding had been rejected it was good to have their encouragement. Similarly, if Rory (as my then prospective PhD supervisor) had said no, at least I would have got the benefit of his feedback and I would have known that I had at least tried.

· Looking ahead, if I am able to get an article (or two) accepted for publication that will, to me, be a noteworthy achievement – aside from completing the PhD.

When I overcame my initial reticence, attending the ECR forum brought all of these benefits into sharp focus – with the bonuses of good company, meeting people keen to share their knowledge and ideas, absorbing the energy and enthusiasm of the wealth of people presenting at/attending the Forum.

I definitely believe that I was lucky to be there, but as they say, sometimes an awful lot of hard work goes into getting lucky!

I am greatly indebted to my supervisors and managers who have encouraged, supported and enabled my application to study for a PhD and continue to support me now that I am partway through. I hope I will be able to repay their belief in me but I also hope to encourage others from non-traditional backgrounds to pursue a similar path!

What is self-compassion and how do we measure it?

posted Oct 11, 2017, 5:24 AM by Karen Wetherall   [ updated Oct 12, 2017, 2:38 AM ]

SBRL member Seonaid Cleare has written a summary of her recently published paper. Access the full paper here

Wikipedia describes self-compassion as “extending compassion to oneself in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering”

The relationship between self-compassion and emotional distress has received a lot of research interest. Indeed, recent studies have reported significant associations between greater self-compassion and lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress (for a review see Barnard & Curry, 2011) and these relationships have been confirmed by meta-analyses (MacBeth & Gumley, 2012; Muris & Petrocchi, 2016). So far however, there has been limited research into the relationship between self-compassion and suicide risk. In this blog I discuss the first published paper from my PhD which is addressing this dearth in research by investigating the relationship between self-compassion and suicide risk within the context of the integrated motivational-volitional model of suicidal behaviour. Although I will report on the self-compassion-suicidality relationship in future blogs (and papers), I have focused on the assessment of self-compassion here.

This blog provides an overview of how we assessed the factor structure of the most widely used measure of self-compassion (Self-Compassion Scale (SCS) Neff 2003ab). The SCS (26 items) assesses the 3 positive (self-kindness, common humanity, mindfulness) and 3 negative (self-judgement, isolation, over-identification with thoughts) aspects of compassion. According to Kristin Neff, these components are interconnected. As such, she argues that the SCS can be used to yield an overall self-compassion score, or the scores from the individual subscales can also be used. Due to its composition and possibly because compassion is a relatively abstract concept, the factor structure of the SCS has been repeatedly scrutinized and a variety of alternatives proposed. However, the majority of these studies have been carried out in other languages and the emerging factor structures have been inconclusive. Indeed various factor structures have been cited in the literature leading to concerns that the factor structure of the SCS may not be stable and would benefit from further robust analyses.

Our study in Mindfulness reports an independent replication of Neff and Whittaker’s (2017) evaluation of the most common factor structures. These were as follows: the original six-factor correlated and higher-order models; a single-factor; a two-factor; a five-factor model and a bi-factorial model. Bi-factorial modelling accounts for covariance between factors arising from the presence of an overarching factor (in this case self-compassion), but the individual factors are able to retain and account for variance in their own subset of items (Reise, Moore & Haviland, 2010).

This was a repeated measures study in which 526 participants completed the SCS online at time 1 and 332 took part again at time 2. We conducted exploratory factor analysis (EFA) on time 1 data, confirmatory factor analyses (CFA) on time 2 data and then retested the models using the time 1 data. Omega indices (ω and ωH) were calculated to assess the reliability (ω) of the subscale scores and the total (ωH) self-compassion score.

Our findings were consistent with Neff et al.’s (2017) study; the bi-factorial model was the best fit to the data followed by the six-factor correlated model. Our omega indices showed that the subscales ranged from ω= .80 to .93 and the scale had an overall ω of 0.96 indicating that the subscales represent both self-compassion and the six factors. When we included the overarching compassion factor the subscale ωH reduced, indicating that the subscales were loading on to the overarching compassion factor too.

Take home message: Our findings support the use of the SCS to yield either subscale scores or a total self-compassion score. You can access the full paper (open access) here:


Barnard, L., & Curry, J. (2011). Self-Compassion: Conceptualizations, correlates & interventions. Review of General Psychology, 15 (4), 289-303.

Cleare, S., Gumley, A., Cleare, C.J., & O’Connor, R.C. (In press). An Investigation of the Factor Structure of the Self-Compassion Scale. Mindfulness

Muris, P., & Petrocchi, N. (2017). Protection or Vulnerability? A Meta-Analysis of the Relations Between the Positive and Negative Components of Self-Compassion and Psychopathology. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 24 (2), 373–383. doi: 10.1002/cpp.2005.

MacBeth, A., & Gumley, A. (2012). Exploring compassion: A meta-analysis of the association between self-compassion and psychopathology. Clinical Psychology Review, 32, 545-552.

Neff, K. D., Whittakar, T., & Karl, A. (2017). Evaluating the factor structure of the Self-Compassion Scale in four distinct populations: Is the use of a total self-compassion score justified? Journal of Personality Assessment. Doi: 10.1080/00223891.2016.1269334

Neff, K. D. (2003a). Development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223-250.

Neff, K. D. (2003b). Self-compassion: an alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2, 85–102.

Reise, S.P., Moore, T.M., & Haviland, M.G. (2010). Bifactor Models and Rotations: Exploring the Extent to Which Multidimensional Data Yield Univocal Scale Scores. Journal of Personality Assessment, 92, (6), 544-559. doi. 10.1080/00223891.2010.496477

Self-compassion. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 9, 2017, from

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