The Support Systems for Self-harm and Suicide (4S) Project is investigating how secondary schools, colleges and governing bodies of youth organisations deliver self-harm and suicide prevention, intervention and postvention. 

Intervention is a process which aims to support and empower people who are practicing an unhealthy or harmful behaviour which is causing them harm. For example, providing information and discussing options that a person may use to stop smoking.

Postvention is a process which is used following an event aimed at supporting those who have experienced a traumatic event. For example, providing healing support to try to ease the difficulties felt by people who have experienced suicide by someone they know.

Phase 1 Study

We are investigating how secondary schools, colleges and youth organisations currently support young people with self-harm and suicide. We are doing this in four different ways:

We are recruiting Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) stakeholder groups to work with us and inform what we do (see tab PPIE)

We are conducting a scoping review of current guidance available to those supporting young people with self-harm and suicide

We are using secondary data analysis to investigate 1) who young people talk to about self-harm and suicide, and 2) how prevention, intervention and postvention programmes communicate about self-harm and suicide

We are surveying schools, colleges and youth governing organisational bodies (YOGBs) to understand current policy and approaches to prevention, intervention and postvention of self-harm and suicide for young people

Phase 2 Study

Based on our learning from Phase 1, we are co-producing principles of practice to support organisations working with young people around self-harm and suicide prevention and postvention. There are two parts to this project:

1. We are conducting in-depth interviews with groups of:
– Adult stakeholders
– Young people 14-15 with lived experience of self-harm
– Young people 16-21 with lived experience of self-harm

2. We will then do a Delphi study to co-produce ‘gold-standard’ principles of practice. Expert panels of academics and clinicians, professionals, school, college, and youth setting staff will vote to obtain a concensus on the principles

If you would like to receive updates about the project and our findings, please email to be added to our distribution list.

4S Funding

The 4S Project is funded by National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) School for Public Health Research (SPHR). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR SPHR.

Image 1 by Vecteezy