Dr Cathy Brennan

Dr Cathy Brennan


I am an Associate Professor in Psychological and Social Medicine. 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 am interested in the intersection between individual risk and the risk conferred as a consequence of environment or place (taking a broad conceptual view of this that includes wider cultural and environmental factors). I have an interest in visual methods, both as a way of exploring lived reality but also as a focus of exploration as to how we represent our world view through the use of images. I have experience in methods for evidence synthesis including systematic reviews and realist synthesis.

I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. I lead an Integrated Core Unit on the MBChB which introduces second year medical students to the key principles of population health (Individuals and Populations year 2). 

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.


  • Head of Division of Psychological and Social Medicine
  • MBChB ICU Co-lead: Individuals and Populations year 2

Research interests

Key Themes

Understanding self-harm and suicidal behaviours

Development and evaluation of complex interventions

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

Theory-driven evaluation and evidence synthesis

Current and recent research

Self-harm and suicidal content online: a review of the evidence. Samaritans Online Harms Programme 2020. Principal Investigator

The role of locality in understading suicide risk. Sadler Seminar Series 2019/2020. Chair https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/leeds-arts-humanities-research-institute/doc/understanding-role-locality-suicide-risk

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 https://freshstart.leeds.ac.uk/

SAFE-PIT: The Self-harm, Assessment, Follow-up and Engagement Treatment Trial. NIHR HTA 2019-2024. Co-Investigator.   https://fundingawards.nihr.ac.uk/award/NIHR131334

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.

PhD supervision

I am interested in supervising projects that: develop our understanding of self-harm and suicidal behaviour; I am also interested in projects in other topic areas that utilise visual methods.

Current Doctoral students

Emma Diggins (PhD): Understanding gender differences in young people’s experience of self-harm.

Ben Gregory (PhD): Exploring the role of place in suicide risk

Norah Alsadhan (PhD): Colorectal cancer in Saudi Arabia: Trends in burden, diagnosis, and presentation


  • 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
  • Health services research
  • Mental health

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>