Understanding and modifying risk of suicide

Developing clinical and theoretical approaches to investigate the risk of suicide

According to the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide (Joiner, 2007; van Orden et al., 2010) death by suicide is a product of a thwarted sense of belongingness combined with the perception of being a burden on others.  When combined, the person begins to think about suicide but must acquire the capability. Our research group is using this and other theories to investigate the risk of suicide.

In laboratory settings we have been developing an experimental model to investigate the key parameters in the Interpersonal Theory in controlled settings and then extending the results to real world contexts.

Working in hospital settings we have been examining the predictors of self-harm and suicide. We have been developing a symptom monitoring system to enhance the temporal resolution of the evaluation of suicidal ideation so that we can better understand the dynamic nature of suicidal risk.

Our research group is keen to build on these foundations by using growth mixture modelling to understand the different trajectories of suicidal ideation and the predictors and consequences of being in these different groups.

We are also looking to use the experimental paradigm we have been developing to clarify the factors that increase and decrease suicidal risk, so that we can design and implement programs to address the risk. 

For more background information, see the suggested readings below.

Suggested readings

Research team leader: Professor Andrew Page

I am a professor of psychology at The University of Western Australia. I worked as a clinical psychologist in the Clinical Unit for Anxiety and Depression (CRUfAD) and was co-director of the Robin Winkler Clinic, where I was instrumental in developing the clinic’s individual and group treatment programs as a model of science-informed practice.

How to apply

Interested in becoming part of this project? Complete the following steps to submit your expression of interest:

Step 1 - Check criteria

General UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

In addition, applicants need to demonstrate adequate research by showing:

  • a supervised research dissertation in a psychology project completed as a program undertaken after a three-year, or during a four-year, bachelor's degree, carrying the equivalent credit of at least 25 per cent of an annual full-time load and awarded an assessed result at or above distinction level; or
  • scholarly papers as sole or primary author, appearing in recognised academic journals or in volumes published by recognised academic publishers
  • thorough knowledge of statistical packages. Knowledge of SPSS is essential and knowledge of MPlus is desirable

Step 2 - Submit enquiry to research team leader

Step 3 - Lodge application

After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, you should be in a position to proceed to the next step of the UWA application process: Lodge an application. Different application procedures apply to domestic and international students.


Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
Forrest Foundation scholarships
All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.

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