Project Details

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Dr Helena Tuomainen

Project area or title

Investigating emerging vulnerabilities to mental ill-health amongst marginalised school pupils in a diverse urban environment through focus on drivers of self-harm and school absenteeism


Increasingly, the mental health and wellbeing of school-age young people is causing concern, with one in six 6-16 -year-olds having a probable mental health condition in 2021. Many of these young people remain untreated as overstretched services struggle to address the ‘treatment gap’, leaving schools to provide support often in the absence of clear guidance.

Early markers of distress, such as self-harm and withdrawal, are common risk factors for suicide and other mental disorders as well as associated with absence from school. Higher proportions of marginalised young people, including those with neurodiverse and LGBTQ+ status, are represented in absentee student populations. In line with government policy, more integrated school-based mental health support strategies, including targeted guidance and advice for young people and school staff are required at the earliest opportunity in key developmental stages.

This PhD will explore markers of emerging distress, including emotional dysregulation and self-harm, in diverse school populations. A focus on groups most at risk of absenteeism and exclusion will enable better understanding of the mechanisms of emerging developmental risk patterns for poor mental health and wellbeing and associated vulnerabilities in young people. A large longitudinal dataset of relevant demographic and outcome metrics from primary and secondary school pupils in Birmingham will be available to support the research. Qualitative methods will also be employed with marginalised groups to explore risks and drivers, such as early adversity and relationships, associated with absenteeism and self-harm to inform guidance, interventions, and timely support strategies in school settings.


Children, Young People & Perinatal Mental Health


University of Warwick

Specific Project Eligibility