Professor Ann John's Story
'The research we do on my team uses data science, evidence synthesis and qualitative interviews to understand suicidal behaviour. But it is the translation of that research into policy and practice that drives us- be that developing guidance for all schools in Wales on self-harm, advising on TV storylines like Coronation Street, or drafting strategy documents.
Being an academic allows for the freedom of independent scientific advice and the development of deep knowledge of an area. It’s a gift of a career.
There are concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken to curb its spread may impact on suicide rates. But suicide is not inevitable, and we don’t know yet if suicide rates will rise. We do need to take comprehensive action to mitigate those risks early. Through, for example, financial safety nets and frontline services- addressing social isolation, disruption to mental health care, potential increases in exposure to domestic violence and socio-economic shocks. In a rapid response, a group of suicide prevention researchers from around the world formed the International COVID-19 Suicide Prevention Research Collaboration to inform this- I sit on the steering group. And in Swansea the SAIL Databank starting modelling almost real-time health and mortality data to support public health responses, working closely with Welsh Government.
My team are looking at mental health data. It feels like we can make a difference, every bit as important in a very different way as my days in direct clinical care. So, while I appear to have moved a long way from my days in hospitals and general practice to research, not so much really, at its core.'