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New Blog: “We love data” - Using data to inform suicide and self-harm prevention, Royal Statistical Society, London

posted Feb 28, 2019, 5:40 AM by Karen Wetherall   [ updated Feb 28, 2019, 6:08 AM ]
By Cara Richardson (PhD Student in SBRL) 

As part of NatCen’s 50th anniversary celebrations, the Royal Statistical Society hosted “Using data to inform suicide and self-harm prevention” in London on Monday 25th February. The question of the day was “How do we ensure the right data are available, analysed and communicated to address the major questions in suicide and self-harm reduction policy and practice?”

The presentations covered a variety of research areas, datasets and methods of analysis. The day started with a welcome from the chair Prof Louise Arseneault (Kings) and an overview from Prof Louis Appleby (Manchester) on the use of data in Suicide Prevention Strategies and a welcome reminder that “Behind the data there is tragedy to individuals and loved ones”. Then Liz Scowcroft (Samaritans, @Liz_Samaritans) made the case for accessible data as “Suicide is everyone’s business”. Following this general population and cohort surveys were covered; with Sally McManus from NatCen, who did an excellent job of organising this meeting, detailing the various datasets that are available and how to access these. Patience is key, though, as accessing the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) 2014 can take up to one year! The process involved in accessing the APMS 2014 is summarised below: 
Prof Tamsin Ford (Exeter) explained the use of surveys to investigate self-harm in children with emotional, behavioural, and neurodevelopmental disorders and Dr Becky Mars (Bristol) praised the use of longitudinal data from the ALSPAC cohort in adolescents. Dr Ben Windsor-Shellard from ONS explained the process involved in registering suicide deaths and the possibilities for data linkage of ONS and census data to provide UK suicide mortality data for different ethnic groups or students. Prof David Gunnell (Bristol) detailed the advantages and challenges of using national suicide mortality statistics, then Prof Louis Appleby (Manchester) presented data from the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide including the 10 ways to improve patient safety (see below).

Next we heard from Dr Sarah Cassidy (Nottingham) who advocated for increasingly accessible routine clinical data for those with autism and autistic traits. After lunch, Prof Nav Kapur (Manchester) emphasised the importance of using hospital self-harm data as it can help researchers and clinicians determine what works, what doesn’t work and when to intervene in this population. Next up was Dr Karyn Ayre (Kings) who covered her research in the area of self-harm in the perinatal period. Dr Ayre’s work has been submitted for publication and we hope to hear more about this soon. Then Dr Chris Fitch (Bristol) explained their work collaborating with financial services to investigate experiences of debt collections agencies with clients who express suicidal thoughts or behaviours and how best to intervene with these individuals. His message was to “step outside of health and think about engaging with other sectors”.

Caroline Turley, Head of Qualitative Research at NatCen, presented her research on self-harm interventions for mid-life men. This research led to recommendations for what men would like from services: Ask Don’t Assume, Recovery Takes Time and Be Mindful of Language and Imagery in the Media. Prof Ann John (Swansea) explained the various “big data” projects she is involved in and the importance of and utility of such data linkage. She also provided an overview of some exciting developments including artificial intelligence, specifically artificial neural networks, with routine health data to aid identification of those at risk of suicide and self-harm.

Following this Dan Collinson from NHS Digital provided an overview of the datasets available in relation to mental health, suicide and self-harm, how to access these as well as the possibilities for data linkage. Finally Helen Garnham and Cam Lugton from Public Health England described the Fingertips tool which collates and presents a range of publicly available data including facets of suicide prevalence, associated risk factors and service contact among groups at increased risk. This provides planners, providers and stakeholders with a means to profile their area and benchmark against similar populations.

Overall, the conference was a great experience and left everyone feeling excited and motivated about the future of research in suicide and self-harm. The take home messages from Prof Louise Arseneault, summarised by The Mental Elf (@Mental_Elf) were:

Take home messages:

- "A refreshing meeting" 

- Let's make self-harm & suicide data ACCESSIBLE 

- Keywords: GDPR, need, voice, trends, big, profile, harmonisation, story, gap, challenges & love "we love data!" 

Now let’s start analysing! (After we receive the data that is)