Every 40 seconds a person takes their own life. This has to change.

With more young people dying by suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, stroke, pneumonia, flu and chronic lung disease, adolescent suicide is a serious public health concern.

Despite these alarming statistics, little progress has been made with the early detection and prevention of suicide in young people.

We plan to perform one of the largest investigations of this kind to date! By studying existing brain scans and data collected from over 4,000 14-25 year olds, the project team hopes to identify specific changes in the brain that make young people vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and behaviours.

The HOPES project has 3 main aims:

Project progress

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The teams at Cambridge, Yale and Melbourne have worked hard on pre-processing all of the data we are using for the HOPES investigations, this stage is now complete.

One aspect of pre-processing is to check all of the brain images are clear and of a good enough quality for us to use. For example, if a participant moved in the scanner whilst the brain image was being taken, this may have resulted in a blurred image. Depending on how blurry the images are, it may not be possible to use them for our research. It’s important these images (and any other unclear or incomplete data) is corrected or removed before we begin the HOPES investigations, as this could change how our results look.

In addition to pre-processing each site has written a computer code, which defines an algorithm to test our research aims (mentioned above). The code is complex and can sometimes contain bugs, so it is very important to ensure this is right.

The first preliminary HOPES investigation (data analysis) has been completed. The team at Melbourne have applied the code to the data and the algorithms seek to identify changes in the brain that could be linked to suicidal thoughts and behaviours developing in young people.

The preliminary results are very promising and the team are now looking at running more specific investigations on the data set. For example, splitting the participant groups by smaller age groups then running the analysis on each group. This should help give us even more defined results.

Want to find out more?

The HOPES team will be presenting at events and conferences as soon as it is safe to do so following the corona virus pandemic. Event information will be posted here as soon as it is available.

Event Date Who can attend?

Meet the international HOPES team

Dr. Anne-Laura van Harmelen (PI)Dr. Maria Dauvermann (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Sophie Bellow (Project Co-ordinator)

Dr. Lianne Schmaal (Co-PI)

Dr. Laura van Velzen (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Dr. Mario Alvarez-Jimenez (Co-investigator)

Dr. Hilary Blumberg (Co-PI)

Dr. Lejla Colic (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Dr. Randy Auerbach (Co-investigator)

The HOPES project is funded by MQ Mental Health Research Charity