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Prevention of suicide in care-experienced young people

11 September 2023

Side view young woman looking away at window sitting on couch at home

A Cardiff University academic is exploring how suicide among young people in care could be better prevented in the UK by comparing approaches internationally.

Dr Rhiannon Evans has received a Churchill Fellowship and will travel to the USA and South Korea to examine best practice, speaking with researchers, policy-makers and practitioners working to support children and young people in care.

Based at the Centre for Development, Evaluation, Complexity and Implementation in Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer), Dr Evans said: “Suicide among children and young people in care is a major social and health care concern. However, despite innovative practice internationally, there is a limited evidence-base for effective, child-centred approaches in the UK. My Fellowship will allow me to explore interventions underway in the USA and South Korea, so that I can consider their local applicability.”

For the research, Dr Evans will travel to Colorado, USA, to find out about the impact of its Fostering Healthy Futures initiative. This programme brings together groups of young people in care for social and emotional skills development, and also provides mentoring by trainee social workers. It is one of the only known schemes to target suicide-related outcomes.

She will also go to South Korea which has developed innovative practices as a result of its comparatively high rate of suicide. She will meet with researchers and school-based practitioners to explore community approaches. Dr Evans will  also be exploring how social media presentations of suspected suicide, particularly among K-pop idols, shape young people’s understanding and identities around self-harm and suicide.

Dr Evans added: “I am looking forward to working with policymakers and practitioners to build up a wider research base which will help us understand how care-experienced young people in the UK could be better helped and supported, so that we see a long-term reduction in suicide rates.”

Dr Evans is one of 141 Churchill Fellows chosen for 2023 which represent a diverse range of backgrounds, expertise and aspirations.