Dr Cathy Brennan

Dr Cathy Brennan


I am an Associate Professor in Psychological and Social Medicine. My research interests are in the area of self-harm and suicide and in the development and evaluation of complex interventions.

My primary research interests are in Public Mental Health, in particular focusing on self-harm and suicidal behaviour and the development and evaluation of complex interventions. I also have an interest in research that seeks to understand the impact of illness in children and families and the factors that can contribute to well-being both at an individual and a social level. My doctoral research employed visual methods to explore sibling experiences of life-limiting illness and I am interested in the development of visual methods to explore health and illness. I have experience in methods for evidence synthesis including systematic reviews and realist synthesis.

I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Within the School of Medicine, I am the lead for postgraduate research studies in applied health and I also teach on the MBChB and the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology Programme. 

I was appointed to this current post in May 2018. Previously I was a Lecturer in Public Health at the University of Leeds and I have held research posts at the University of Oxford and the University of Bristol.


  • Lead for Postgraduate Research Studies LIHS/LICTR
  • MBChB ICU Co-lead: Individuals and Populations 2

Research interests

Key Themes

Understanding self-harm and suicidal behaviours

Development and evaluation of complex interventions

Exploring the impact of illness on young people

Methodological Innovation: The use of visual and participatory methods in applied health research

Theory-driven evaluation and evidence synthesis

Current and recent research

FReSH START: Function REplacement in repeated Self-Harm, Standardising Therapeutic Assessment and the Related Therapy. NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Health Research 2018-2024. Co-lead

Negotiating transition to a ‘grown-up world’: the journey to sexual and reproductive health for unaccompanied adolescent asylum seekers. WUN Research Development Fund 2015

Understanding the Impacts of Care Farms on Health and Well-being: A Pilot study to inform the design of a follow-on study to assess the cost-effectiveness of care farms in improving health and wellbeing and reducing re-offending. NIHR PHR, 2012-2015. Co-Investigator.

Motivations, mandates and accountability in demand management: A realist synthesis. NIHR HS&DR, 2012-2014. Co-Investigator

Bereavement services for young people in Leeds. A mixed method study of the access to and experience of bereavement services. Funded by NHS Leeds, March 2011–December 2012. Principal Investigator.

Teaching responsibilities

Co-lead MBChB - Individuals and Populations 2

Lecturer on MB ChB – Individuals and Populations

Lecturer on Doctorate in Clinical Psychology Programme

PhD supervision

Cathy is interested in supervising projects that: develop our understanding of self-harm and suicidal behaviour; explore psychosocial adaptation in children and young people; investigate factors that contribute to resiliency. She is also interested in projects in other topic areas that utilise visual methods.

Current PhD & DClinPsychol students

Claire Mills (PhD): The ACoUSTiC study – Exploring the potential benefits of Above CUff VocaliSation in TraCheostomy: communication, swallowing, decannulation and cost savings

Emily Higgins (DClinPsychol): What are the experiences of people who self-harm when they confide to non-professionals?

Completed research students

Nicola Shanahan (DClinPsychol): A picture paints a thousand words. Exploring images of self-harm posted on social media platforms. Co-supervised with Professor Allan House. Completed 2017.

Robert Holliday (DClinPsychol): How do Adolescents talk about self-harm? Co-supervised with Professor David Cottrell. Completed 2017

George Crowther (PhD): Dementia Inpatient Study on The Recognition and Evaluation of Signs Signalling Emotional Distress – The DISTRESSED Study. Co-supervised with Professor Mike Bennett and Dr John Holmes. Completed 2017

Christina Barker (DClinPsychol): The impact of a reflecting team on systemic family therapy with young people who self-harm. Co-supervised with Paula Boston. Completed September 2016

Louise Johnson (DClinPsychol): The association between illness perceptions, resilience and health risk behaviours in young adults with congenital heart disease. Co-supervised with Dr Maureen Twiddy. Completed 2015

Michael Tully (DClinPsychol): Perceived discrimination, coping options and their relationship to mental health and psychological distress in homeless adults. Co-supervised with Dr Tracey Farragher. Completed 2014

Amanda Edmondson (PhD): Listening with your eyes: exploring motivations to self-harm in adults. Co-supervised with Professor Allan House. Completed 2013.

Esmie Kanje (PhD): The impact of HIV/AIDS on children’s welfare in Malawi. Co-supervised with Professor Darren Shickle, Professor John Walley and Dr Reinhard Huss. Completed 2013.

Rachel Notman (DClinPsychol): Exploring family understandings of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis and the processes by which these are negotiated. Completed 2013

James Hoskinson, (DClinPsychol): How does having a sibling with autism spectrum conditions impact on adolescents’ psychological adjustment? Completed 2011.

David O’Sullivan (DClinPsychol): A qualitative exploration of the meanings and reasons behind self-cutting. Co-supervised with Professor Allan House. Completed 2011.


  • PhD, School of Medicine – University of Leeds
  • MSc Social Research Methods and Statistics – City University
  • BA (Hons) Economic and Social Studies – University of Manchester
  • RGN/RSCN – Salford School of Nursing

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Member of Society for Social Medicine and Population Health

Research groups and institutes

  • Psychological and Social Medicine

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>