Suicides among primary and secondary school teachers

PhD project (3/4 yr research project leading to independent research at the doctorate level)

Judi Kidger, Becky Mars, David Gunnell, Rhiannon Evans, Jonathan Scourfield

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The latest occupation and suicide figures for England show that female primary and nursery education teachers are at a 50% increased risk of suicide, with 102 deaths over a four year period [1]. Male secondary school teachers also have an elevated risk of 13%, with 133 deaths over the same period. Little is known about why teachers are at heightened risk compared to occupations of similar income / status. Further, school-based suicide prevention interventions tend to focus on students rather than teachers, despite the elevated risk among this group of workers. This project will make use of a psycho-social autopsy approach to investigate suicides occurring among teachers [2,3]. It will also make use of quantitative methods to understand risk factors for suicidal thoughts and attempts and self-harm behaviour among this occupational group, which are known to be predictive of future suicide, and qualitative methods to explore the potential for preventive interventions.

Aims & objectives

1. To identify the risk factors associated with completed suicide among school teachers in England
2. To identify the factors associated with suicidal thoughts, suicidal attempts and non-suicidal self-harm among teachers, and examine how far these differ from the factors associated with these outcomes in the general population
3. To examine potential interventions to address work-related risk factors for teacher suicidal behaviour


1. Psychosocial autopsy study of the coroners’ records of a subset of ~80 primary and secondary teacher suicide cases within the latest ONS report of suicides by occupation [1], to identify possible psychological and sociological causal factors.
2. Logistic/linear regression analyses to examine the association between work and non-work related risk factors and suicidal thoughts/attempts and self-harm behaviour among (i) the general population in England, through secondary analysis of Office for National Statistics (ONS) national adult psychiatric morbidity survey data, 2016 (ii) primary and secondary school teachers through collection of self-complete data from a random sample across England and Wales (~1000).
3. Qualitative focus groups with teachers in 10 schools (5 primary, 5 secondary), and interviews with school leaders, governors and local authority representatives/Academy chain leaders to explore their views on how identified risk factors could be addressed.


2. Scourfield et al. Soc Sci Med 2012; 74(4): 466-73
3. Hawton et al. Journal of Affective Disorders 2015; 175: 147-51

Created on Oct. 18, 2017, 11:04 a.m.

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