Keele GP awarded prestigious research fellowship to help young people who self-harm

A new study led by Dr Faraz Mughal from Keele University’s School of Medicine aims to develop an acceptable and feasible intervention for GPs in order to support young people who self-harm. 

Dr Mughal has been awarded a prestigious National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Doctoral Fellowship with funding of over £450,000 to develop the intervention for GPs to use when treating young people who self-harm. The intervention is envisaged to be a treatment protocol which targets psychosocial factors and including training for GPs.  

There are currently no effective interventions for GPs to use with young people who self-harm, and levels of self-harm in young people are rising. There are also concerns that self-harm may rise during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, especially amongst high risk groups, such as young people. 

As part of the COPING study - a CO-produced Psychosocial INtervention delivered by GPs for young people who self-harm - Dr Mughal will work closely with young people who self-harm to support the development of the COPING intervention for GPs. The research also aims to improve GP confidence and skills and inform NHS services and self-harm clinical guidelines and practice. 

Dr Mughal will be supported by Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham, Professor Lisa Dikomitis, and Professor Gillian Lancaster, from Keele’s School of Medicine, and he will be working closely with Professor Ellen Townsend, who leads the Self-Harm Research Group at the University of Nottingham, the NIHR Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre, and colleagues at the University of Melbourne and Orygen, the National Centre for Excellence in Youth Mental Health, Australia. 

Dr Mughal is a GP and practice research lead at Coventry Road Practice, Birmingham, and an NIHR School for Primary Care Research GP Career Progression Fellow at Keele’s School of Medicine. The NIHR Doctoral Fellowship programme aims to support individuals on a trajectory to become future health research leaders through a robust research study and training and development. 

Dr Mughal said: “I am delighted that the COPING study has been recognised as important especially at a time when young people’s mental health is a priority, and am grateful to NIHR for funding the study and supporting my development. I also want to thank the patients and public with whom I worked closely. 

“We know around one in four young people (aged 16-25) have previously self-harmed and that GPs see young people who self-harm the most often in the NHS. Self-harm is the strongest risk factor for suicide and Covid-19 has resulted in significant challenges to young people's mental health with self-harm a growing concern in the NHS.  

“I aim to develop, with young people who self-harm and GPs, a feasible and acceptable intervention for GPs to use with young people who self-harm and test the intervention in general practice. This work, funded by NIHR, will hopefully inform a future randomised controlled trial to assess how effective the COPING intervention is in NHS general practice.”