Developing digital wearables to support young people struggling with repeated self-harm
Self-harm in young people is a pressing public health problem. 20% of the population of young people who self-harm go on to do so on a severe, repeated basis. Many of these young people are at risk of having to spend periods of time in mental health inpatient settings. Understanding the factors that contribute to self-harm becoming a repeated response is important. There is evidence to suggest that hospital treatment does not have good outcomes and may reinforce a young person’s relationship with self-harm over time.
Research has identified factors across a young person’s life that can put them at risk of self-harm, but little research has been undertaken to understand the triggers that occur immediately before, during and after repeated self-harm. The lack of research is in part due to lack of tools to safely capture the real-time, self-report, data that is need from young people who are in hospital settings. There is a need to develop new large-scale self-report/qualitative methodologies to address this gap.
The University of Salford has established an interprofessional development team across the Schools of Health & Society and Computing, Science and Engineering. Working with our industrial partners and young people, we have designed an innovative digital wearable technology (smart watch) to help young people who self-harm and their clinicians.
The device, application and companion software enable in-the-moment reporting of physiological, affective and cognitive changes, that will support young people and care providers with understanding their cycle of self-harm and inform individual treatment approaches. Once fully piloted, the system will be used to undertake a large-scale qualitative research study to investigate proximal factors that maintain self-harm within in-patient settings; helping to fill a gap in the evidence-base, which is limiting the development of effective clinical interventions.
Team: Celeste Foster (project lead); Cristian Clausner (software/application/website developer), Prof. Tony Long; Prof Alison Brettle, Dr Dan Parker, Professor Ben Light and Dr Paul Hepburn