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Dr Ellen Townsend

Associate Professor

Personality, Social Psychology & Health group

School of Psychology,

 University of Nottingham,

University Park,


NG7 2RD, U.K. 




Tel: ++ 44 115 846 7305 
Fax ++ 44 115 951 5324 




My research interests lie in clinical and health psychology. I apply psychological theories and methods in order to increase our understanding of important psychological phenomena (e.g. mental health problems, risk perception and risk-related decision-making and explicit/implicit attitudes) and complex behaviours (e.g. self-harm). I lead the Self-Harm Research group in the department and a national Clinical Research Group on self-harm funded by MHRN. I conduct systematic reviews in order to increase the evidence-base in relation to interventions for self-harm and mental health problems. I am PI on the ‘Listen-Up!’ project: understanding and helping looked-after young people who self-harm’ funded by the Department of Health Policy Research Programme to support the implementation of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy.


·         More about me and my research group

·         PhD Students and PhD funding

·         Funding

·         Recent conference presentations and keynote addresses

·         Current teaching

·         Current administrative roles and committees



I am currently on sabbatical – the best way to contact me is via email.


Feb 2014. Listen-Up! Project is live!

We are now recruiting participants to our study on young people who self-harm. We are seeking young people aged 11-21 years who live in Nottinghamshire/Leicestershire area who have self-harmed in the last 6 months to take part in our studies.

Please see study information here: contact Dr Ruth Wadman ( if you are interested.


January 2014. I was a keynote speaker at the conference‘ The Challenges of Tackling Self-Harm and Suicide in School Age Children and young people.’ It was an amazing and inspiring day with representation from academia, healthcare workers and third sector organisations. The event was covered on East Midlands today.

Publications in peer reviewed journals

1.    Townsend, E., Spence, A. and Knowles, S. (2014.) Investigating the operation of the affect heuristic: Is it an associative construct?’ Journal of Risk Research, 17 (3), 299-315.


2.    Knowles, S., Townsend, E. and Anderson, M. (2013.) “In two minds”. Socially motivated self-harm is perceived as less serious than internally motivated: A qualitative study of youth justice staff. Journal of Health Psychology.  Full text available online before print here:


3.    Townsend, E. and Pitchford, N. Baby knows best?  (2012). The impact of weaning style on food preferences and body mass index in early childhood in a case–controlled sample. BMJ Open 2012;2:e000298 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000298. Full text available here:


4.    Fleming, P., Townsend, E., van Hilten, J.A., Spence, A., and Ferguson, E. (2012). Expert relevance and the use of context-driven heuristic processes in risk perception. Journal of Risk Research, 15, 857-873. Available online here.


5.    Knowles, S., Townsend, E. & Anderson, M (2012). Youth Justice staff attitudes towards screening for self-harm. Health & social care in the community, 20(5), 506-515.


6.    Knowles, S. & Townsend, E. (2012). Implicit and Explicit Attitudes toward Self Harm: support for a functional model. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 43, 730-736. Article available online here.


7.    Knowles, S., Townsend, E., Anderson, M. (2011). Factors associated with self-harm in

community-based young offenders: the importance of psychological variables, Journal of Forensic Psychiatry &Psychology. First published on: 16 June 2011 (iFirst).To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/14789949.2011.591415. URL:


  1. Ulph, E., Leong, J., Glazebrook, C., & Townsend, E. (2010.) A qualitative study exploring genetic counsellors' experiences of counselling children. European Journal of Human Genetics, 18, 1090-1094.  Article available online here.
  2. Townsend, E., Walker, D., Sargeant, S., Vostanis, P., Hawton, K., Stocker, O., Sithole, J. (2010). Systematic review and meta-analysis of interventions relevant for young offenders with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, or self-harm. Journal of Adolescence, 33, 9-20. PDF. Article available online here.
  3. Ulph, F., Townsend, E. and Glazebrook, C. (2009). How should risk be communicated to children? A cross-sectional study comparing different formats of probability information. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making. 9: 26.  Article available here.
  4. Ferguson, E., Spence, A., Townsend, E., Prowse, C., Palmer, J., Fleming, P., and   Van Hilten, J.A. (2009). What Type of Information is Trusted by whom? A Multi-Level Analysis of the Stability of the Information Source-Trust Association for Blood Transfusion. Transfusion, 49 (8), 1637-1648. Article. PDF.


  1. Ferguson, E., Prowse, C. Townsend, E., Spence, A., van Hilten J. A., Lowe, K. (2008). Acceptability of blood and blood substitutes. Journal of Internal Medicine, 263 (3) 244-255.    
  2. Townsend, E., Walker, D., Sargeant, S., Stocker, O., Vostanis, P., Sithole, J., & Hawton, K. (2008). Interventions for mood and anxiety disorders, and self harm in young offenders. (Protocol.) Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD007195. Article. PDF.
  3. Spence, A. and Townsend, E. (2008). Spontaneous Evaluations:  Similarities and Differences between the Affect Heuristic and Implicit Attitudes. Cognition and Emotion, 22 (1), 83-93. Article. PDF.
  4. Spence, A. and Townsend, E. (2007) Predicting behaviour towards genetically modified (GM) food using implicit and explicit attitudes. British Journal of Social Psychology, 46, 437-457. Article. PDF.
  5. Fleming, P., Ferguson, E., Townsend, E., Lowe, KC, (2007). Perceptions in transfusion medicine: a pilot study on risk and ethics for blood and blood substitutes. Artificial Cells, Blood Substitutes and Biotechnology, 35(149-156).
  6. Fleming, P., Townsend, E, Lowe, K.C. and Ferguson, E. (2007) Social desirability influences on judgements of biotechnology across the dimensions of risk, ethicality and naturalness. Journal of Risk Research, 10 (7), 989-1003.
  7. Townsend, E. (2007). Suicide terrorists: Are they suicidal? Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. 37 (1), 35-49. Article. PDF.
  8. Spence, A. and Townsend, E. (2006). Examining consumer behaviour towards genetically modified (GM) food in Britain. Risk Analysis, 26,(3), 657-670. Article. PDF.
  9. Knowles, S. Townsend, E. and Anderson, M. (2006). Using ASSET data for mental health research on Young Offenders: issues and implications for researchers. Educational and Child Psychology, 23 (2), 52-61.
  10. Spence, A. and Townsend, E. (2006). Implicit attitudes towards Genetically Modified (GM) foods: A comparison of context-free and context-dependent evaluations. Appetite, 46, 67-74. Article. PDF.
  11. Townsend, E. (2006). Affective influences on risk perceptions of, and attitudes toward, genetically modified food. Journal of Risk Research, 9 (2), 125-139.
  12. Ferguson, E., Leaviss, J. Townsend, E., Fleming, P. Lowe, K.C. (2005). Perceived safety of donor blood and blood substitutes: the role of informational frame, patient groups and stress appraisals.  Transfusion Medicine, 15, 401-412.
  13. Townsend, E. and Campbell, S. (2004). Psychological determinants of willingness to taste and purchase genetically modified food. Risk Analysis, 24, 1385-1393.
  14. Townsend, E. Clarke, D.D. and Travis, B. (2004). Effects of context and feelings on perceptions of genetically modified food. Risk Analysis, 24, 1369-1384.
  15. Campbell, S. and Townsend, E. (2003) Flaws undermine results of UK biotech debate. Nature 425 p 559.
  16. Haw, C., Hawton, K., Houston, K., Townsend E. (2003) Correlates of relative lethality and suicidal intent among deliberate self-harm patients. Suicide and Life Threatening Behaviour 33 (4), 353-364.
  17. Hawton, K., Houston, K., Haw, C., Townsend, E., Harriss, L. (2003) Comorbidity of Axis I and Axis II Disorders in Patients Who Attempt Suicide. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 1494-1500.
  18. Houston, K., Haw, C., Townsend, E., Hawton, K. (2003). General practitioner contacts with patients before and after deliberate self-harm. British Journal of General Practice, 53 (490), 365-370.
  19. Haw, C., Hawton, K., Whitehead, L., Houston, K., Townsend, E. (2003) Assessment and aftercare for deliberate self-harm patients provided by a general hospital psychiatric service. Crisis, 24, 145-150.
  20. Hawton, K., Haw, C., Houston, K., Townsend, E. (2002). Family history of suicidal behaviour: prevalence and significance in deliberate self-harm patients. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 106, 387-393.
  21.  Haw C, Houston K, Townsend E, & Hawton, K. (2002). Deliberate self-harm patients with depressive disorders: treatment and outcome. Journal of Affective Disorders, 70, 57-65.
  22.  Townsend, E., Hawton, K., Harriss, L., Bale, E., Bond, A. (2001) Substances used in deliberate self-poisoning 1995-1997: trends and associations with age, gender, repetition and suicide intent Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 36, 228-234
  23. Townsend, E., Hawton, K., Altman, D.G., Arensman, E., Gunnell, D., Hazell, P., House, A., Van Heeringen, K. (2001) The efficacy of problem-solving treatments after deliberate self-harm: meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials with respect to depression, hopelessness and improvement in problems. Psychological Medicine, 31, 979-988.
  24. Arensman, E., Townsend, E., Hawton, K., Bremner, S., Feldman, E., Goldney, R., Gunnell, D., Hazell, P., Van Heeringen, K., House, A., Owens, D., Sakinofsky, I., Träskman-Bendz, L. (2001) Psychosocial and pharmacological treatment of patients following deliberate self-harm: the methodological issues involved in evaluating effectiveness. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 31, 169-180.
  25. Hawton, K., Townsend, E., Deeks, J., Appleby, L., Gunnell, D., Bennewith, O., Cooper, J. (2001) Effects of legislation restricting pack sizes of paracetamol and salicylates on self poisoning in the United Kingdom: before and after study. British Medical Journal, 322, 1203-1207.
  26. Haw, C., Houston, K., Townsend, E., Hawton, K. (2001) Deliberate Self-Harm Patients with Alcohol Disorders: Characteristics, Treatment and Outcome. Crisis, 22(3), 93-101.
  27. Haw, C., Hawton, K., Houston, K., Townsend, E. (2001) Psychiatric and personality disorders in deliberate self-harm patients. British Journal of Psychiatry, 178, 48-54
  28. Hawton, K., Arensman, E., Townsend, E., Bremner, S., Feldman, E., Goldney, R., Gunnell, D., Hazell, P., Van Heeringen, C., House, A., Owens, D., Sakinofsky, I., Träskman-Bendz, L. (1998) Deliberate self-harm: a systematic review of the efficacy of psychosocial and pharmacological treatments in preventing repetition. British Medical Journal, 317, 441-7.
  29. Burgess, S., Geddes, J., Hawton, K., Townsend, E., Jamison, K., Goodwin, G. (2001). Lithium for maintenance treatment of mood disorders. (Cochrane Review). In: The Cochrane Library, 2, 2001. Oxford: Update Software.
  30. Hawton, K., Townsend, E., Arensman, E., Gunnell, D., House, A., Van Heeringen, C. (1999) Psychosocial and pharmacological treatments for deliberate self harm. (Cochrane Review). In: The Cochrane Library, Issue 3. Oxford: Update Software.
  31. Waters, A. J., Townsend, E., Underwood, G.  Expertise in musical sight reading: A study of pianists. (1998) British Journal of Psychology, 89 (1), 123-149.

Book chapters

§  Townsend, E. (Forthcoming.) Suicide Terrorism. Chapter to appear in Oxford Handbook of Suicide and Self-Injury. MK. Nock (Ed). Due to be published by Oxford University Press in 2012.


§  Townsend, E. (2007). Cognitive-behavioural interventions for young offenders. In ‘Mental Health Interventions for vulnerable children and young people’ (P. Vostanis, Ed). Jessica Kingsley, London.


§  Ferguson, E., Fleming, P., Townsend, E., & Lowe KC. (2006). Perceived Naturalness and Risk of Blood and Blood Substitutes. In Columbus, F. (Ed.) New Developments in Blood Transfusion Research. Nova Science Publishers, New York. (pp 65-76).


Other publications

Campbell, S. and Townsend, E. (2005) How To Make A Minority Look Like A Majority'. Australasian Science, March 2005, pp. 28-29.

Ulph, F., Leong, J, Glazebrook,C, Townsend, E. (2005). When do mum and dad need their genes back? Communicating information about genetics to children. Psychology & Health, 20, 268 Suppl. 1, AUG 2005.



Ulph F, Glazebrook C, Leong J, Shakespeare F, Townsend E (2005). "It's certainly letting a little bit of a flood gate open": Genetic counsellors' views about the UK newborn screening programme for cystic fibrosis. Journal of Medical Genetics 42: S122-S122 Suppl. 1 SEP.


Hawton K, Townsend E. (2002) UK legislation on analgesic pack sizes: impact on suicidal behaviour. EUR PSYCHIAT 17: 67S-67S Suppl. 1.


Geddes J, Burgess S, Hawton K, Townsend E, Jamison K, Goodwin G. (2002) Lithium prophylaxis of mood disorders: Efficacy, acceptability and anti-suicidal effects, Journal of Affective Disorders, 68 (1): 83-83.


Useful links

Cochrane Collaboration:

University of Oxford Centre for Suicide Research:

Help is at Hand. Information for those bereaved by suicide or other sudden death.

American foundation for Suicide Prevention:

American association of Suicidology:

The Samaritans:

Society for Risk Analysis:


Page last updated: 9-4-2014.





























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