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ScotCen to lead new study of innovative distress intervention

14 June 2022

The Scottish Centre for Social Research (ScotCen) will lead the DBI Impact Evaluation on Suicide and Self-harm (DIMES) project to evaluate the impact of Distress Brief Intervention (DBI) on suicidal ideation, suicidal behaviour and self-harm. DBI has been piloted in Scotland since 2017 as a unique approach to supporting those in distress who present to frontline services.

ScotCen, the Scottish arm of the National Centre for Social Research, will lead a consortium of partners comprising the Universities of Glasgow, Stirling, Edinburgh and Glasgow Caledonian. The study will also be supported by an advisory group of people with lived experience of accessing support in distress.

The study is funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), the UK's largest funder of health and care research.

The DBI programme helps people in emotional distress by making the response to their first contact with services including A&E, GPs, ambulance, police and NHS24 as compassionate as possible. They are also offered up to two weeks of problem-solving support from a DBI practitioner based in the community within 24 hours. The study team will be working with DBI teams in Aberdeen, Inverness, Lanarkshire and Scottish Borders.

Led by ScotCen, the DIMES study aims to understand whether and how DBI can reduce suicidal ideation, suicidal behaviour and self-harm in the short and long term among those presenting to front line services in distress and crisis. It will provide learning that will inform the continued improvement of DBI and wider healthcare services that feed into it.

Joanne McLean, Research Director at ScotCen and Project Lead, said: “Many people who die from suicide have unplanned contact with health services in the year before. This study is inspired by people who have told us that they felt DBI stopped them from going on to harm themselves when they were distressed. It will provide crucial evidence to help understand if suicidal and self-harm behaviour can be prevented through the NHS and partner agencies working together on DBI.”

Kevin Stewart MSP, Mental Wellbeing Minister, said: “We know from recent independent evaluation of DBI that some people said they may have attempted suicide or continued with suicidal thoughts if Distress Brief Intervention had not been offered to them. This new research will provide a valuable additional perspective on the impact of DBI on suicidal ideation, suicidal behaviour and self-harm - and will help inform further development of policy and action to support people at risk.”

Professor Rory O’Connor, University of Glasgow, a co-investigator and President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention, said: “Too many people die by suicide each year in Scotland. So, I am delighted to be part of this important project, which aims to explore the extent to which the Distress Brief Intervention may reduce risk of suicide in those who are in distress.”

Kevin O’Neill, National Distress Brief Intervention Programme Manager, said: “The DBI community really welcomes the opportunity to work and learn with the research team, to not only understand the part that DBI can play in supporting people experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm but also how DBI can be further improved in pursuit of delivering the best connected compassionate support possible.”


If you feel distressed and need to talk to someone, you can call:

NHS 24 Mental Health Hub on 111 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87 Weekdays: Monday - Thursday 6pm to 2am, Weekend: Friday 6pm - Monday 6am

Samaritans on 116 123 or email 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

Or visit:

For more information please contact:

Oliver Paynel, Communications Manager, National Centre for Social Research
e: t: 0207 549 9550 m: 07734 960 071

Katie Crabb, Head of Marketing and Communications, National Centre for Social Research
e: t: 0207 549 8504

Notes to editors

About the Scottish Centre for Social Research (ScotCen)

The Scottish Centre for Social Research (ScotCen) is the Scottish arm of the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), Britain’s largest independent social research organisation. ScotCen aims to promote a better-informed society through high quality social research (

About Distress Brief Intervention (DBI)

The aim of the DBI programme is to provide a framework for improved inter-agency co-ordination, collaboration and co-operation across a wide range of care settings, interventions and community supports, towards the shared goal of providing a compassionate and effective response to people in distress. Such an approach will make it more likely that these individuals will engage with and stay connected to services or support that may benefit them over time (

About the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR)

The mission of the NIHR is to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. We do this by:

  • Funding high quality, timely research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care;
  • Investing in world-class expertise, facilities and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services;
  • Partnering with patients, service users, carers and communities, improving the relevance, quality and impact of our research;
  • Attracting, training and supporting the best researchers to tackle complex health and social care challenges;
  • Collaborating with other public funders, charities and industry to help shape a cohesive and globally competitive research system;
  • Funding applied global health research and training to meet the needs of the poorest people in low and middle income countries.

NIHR is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. Its work in low and middle income countries is principally funded through UK Aid from the UK government.

About the University of Glasgow

The University of Glasgow is a top world 100 University (THE, QS) and the current Times and Sunday Times Good University of the Year 2022. The University is a member of the prestigious Russell Group of leading UK Universities and has annual research income of more than £180m. As a world-leading, research-intensive University, the University of Glasgow is committed to contributing towards the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and has committed to carbon neutrality by 2030. Glasgow was the first UK University to declare it would divest from fossil fuels within a decade and the first in Scotland to declare a Climate Emergency. In 2021, the University of Glasgow received a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its national service to the COVID-19 pandemic.

About the University of Stirling

Ranked among the UK’s 40 best universities in the Complete University Guide, the University of Stirling is committed to providing education with a purpose and carrying out research which has a positive impact on communities across the globe – addressing real issues, providing solutions and helping to shape society. Stirling is 4th in Scotland and 43rd in the UK for research impact, with 87% of its research having an outstanding or very considerable impact on society – and more than 80% rated either world leading or internationally excellent (Research Excellence Framework 2021). Interdisciplinary in its approach, Stirling’s research informs its teaching curriculum and facilitates opportunities for knowledge exchange and collaboration between staff, students, industry partners and the wider community.

The University of Stirling is ranked among the top 20 UK universities for student satisfaction (National Student Survey) and top 10 in the UK for postgraduate student experience (Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey), and has an overall five-star rating in the QS Stars University Ratings.

More than 17,000 students study with the University of Stirling globally, with over 120 nationalities represented on its scenic central Scotland campus alone. The campus – also home to 1,700 staff – has its own loch and castle, and a recent multi-million-pound redevelopment has delivered modern, flexible, and digitally connected study and social spaces at the heart of campus, including enhanced student support and retail and catering outlets. @stiruni

About Glasgow Caledonian University

Glasgow Caledonian University, the University for the Common Good, is a vibrant, values-led, multi-cultural, civic University with a global outlook and strong commitment to delivering social innovation and sustainable development in its education and research. Ranked fourth in the world and first in the UK for promoting gender equality, in the top 5% globally for social impact, and first in Scotland for health and wellbeing, and reduced inequalities, GCU’s research strategy is aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promoted by the United Nations.