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Dr Ellen Townsend

Associate Professor

Self-Harm Research Group

School of Psychology,

 University of Nottingham,

University Park,


NG7 2RD, U.K. 




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




I am an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham and PI leading the Self-Harm Research Group. I research psychological factors associated with self-harm and suicidality, and interventions that promote recovery, especially in young people using a range of techniques including experiments, interviews and systematic reviews. I lead a national Clinical Research Group on self-harm funded by the Mental Health Research Network (NIHR). I am PI on a project investigating self-harm in looked-after young people funded by the Department of Health Policy Research Programme. See our project website: for more information. I am a collaborator on the Multicentre Study of Self-Harm in England and a Fellow of the International Academy of Suicide Research.



·         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



See my twitter account @selfharmnotts for updates about me and my research group.


Publications in peer reviewed journals


·         Hawton K, Witt KG, Taylor Salisbury TL, Arensman E, Gunnell D, Hazell P, Townsend E, van Heeringen K. (2015). Pharmacological interventions for self-harm in adults (Review). Cochrane Library.


·         Kapur N, Steeg S, Turnbull P, Webb R, Bergen H, Hawton K, Geulayov G, Townsend E, Ness J, Waters K & Cooper J. (In press).  Hospital management of suicidal behaviour and subsequent mortality:  findings from the Multicentre Study of Self-harm in England. Lancet Psychiatry.


·         Glazebrook KG, Townsend E. & Sayal K. (2015). The role of attachment style in predicting repetition of adolescent self-harm: a longitudinal study. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior.


·         Glazebrook KG, Townsend E. & Sayal K. (In press). Do coping strategies mediate the relationship between parental attachment and self-harm in young people? Archives of Suicide Research.


·         Hochard K, Heym N, Townsend E. (2015). The Unidirectional Relationship of Nightmares on Self-Harmful Thoughts and Behaviors. Dreaming.


·         Townsend, E. (2014). Self-Harm in Young People. Clinical Review. Evidence-Based Mental Health. (Click here for online first version August 2014).


·         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.


·         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:


·         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:


·         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.


·         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.


·         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.


·         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:


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


  • 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.    
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Townsend, E. (2007). Suicide terrorists: Are they suicidal? Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. 37 (1), 35-49. Article. PDF.
  • Spence, A. and Townsend, E. (2006). Examining consumer behaviour towards genetically modified (GM) food in Britain. Risk Analysis, 26,(3), 657-670. Article. PDF.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Townsend, E. (2006). Affective influences on risk perceptions of, and attitudes toward, genetically modified food. Journal of Risk Research, 9 (2), 125-139.
  • 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.
  • Townsend, E. and Campbell, S. (2004). Psychological determinants of willingness to taste and purchase genetically modified food. Risk Analysis, 24, 1385-1393.
  • 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.
  • Campbell, S. and Townsend, E. (2003) Flaws undermine results of UK biotech debate. Nature 425 p 559.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  •  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.
  •  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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. (2014). Suicide Terrorism. The Oxford Handbook of Suicide and Self-Injury. MK. Nock (Ed). Oxford University Press.


§  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

Harmless (Award winning support service for self-harm).

U Can Cope: resources to build resilience and cope in times of stress:

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: 7/7/15.





























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