Research Summary


Dr. Sharon McDonnell is the Director of Suicide Bereavement UK and is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Manchester.  Sharon has specialised in suicide bereavement research for 17 years and is recognised as a leader in this field internationally.  Her research has been referred to in several parliamentary debates (Hansard, 2012, 2015 and 2017).  All research projects conducted by Suicide Bereavement UK are led by Dr. Sharon McDonnell.

Sharon was employed by the Centre for Mental Health and Safety, at the University of Manchester from October 1999 - March 2016.  The majority of her research has been funded by government bodies, for example The Department of Health, The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)- and The National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA).

Sharon has considerable experience of working with diverse populations on various suicide prevention research projects, whilst employed by the University of Manchester, ranging from families and professionals affected by suicide, prisoners and senior officials working for government etc.  Examples of research projects Sharon has worked on include the following

  • Translating research findings into evidence-based suicide bereavement training;
  • Identifying the experiences and  perceived needs of parents bereaved by suicide;
  • Developing a pilot electronic multi-agency information sharing system for mentally disordered offenders;
  • Evaluating the first phase of the integrated drug treatment system in English prisons; and
  • The national sudden unexplained death study of psychiatric in-patients aged under 45 years


Methodological knowledge

  • Qualitative methods specifically, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, Framework Analysis and Thematic Analysis;
  • Mixed/multi methods research;
  • Online surveys;
  • Translating research findings into evidence-based training; and
  • Service-user involvement in all aspects of research.


Research interests

  • All aspects of suicide bereavement across the lifespan;
  • Translating suicide bereavement research into evidence-based training;
  • The development of postvention services;
  • Traumatic loss; 
  • Online memorialisation;
  • Suicide clusters and contagion;
  • Suicide prevention;
  • Offender mental health, specifically suicide prevention and  suicide bereavement.



  • 2006   PhD,  entitled ‘Identifying the Experiences of Parents Bereaved by Suicide or Undetermined Death': University of Manchester.
  • 1998   BSc  1st class Hons in Psychology. University of Bolton.


Membership of Committees and Professional Bodies    

  • Co-Chair of the International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP) Specialist Interest Group (SIG) which is currently developing international postvention guidelines;
  • Member of the Support After Suicide Partnership (SASP) leadership team and leads the research projects within SASP;
  • Member of the National Suicide Prevention Alliance (NSPA);
  • Member of the All Party Parliamentary Suicide and Self Harm Prevention Group; and
  • Winston Churchill Fellow (2013).


Collaborators and Affiliated Staff    

Professor Jenny Shaw, Professor of Forensic Psychiatry, University of Manchester.
Professor Nav Kapur, Professor of Psychiatry and Population Health, University of Manchester.
Dr. Isabelle Hunt, Research Fellow, The National Confidential Inquiry for Suicide and Homicide, The University of Manchester.
Dr. Sandra Flynn, Research Fellow, The National Confidential Inquiry for Suicide and Homicide, The University of Manchester.
Dr. Jane Senior, Offender Health Research Network, University of Manchester.
Dr. Charlotte Lennox, Offender Health Network, University of Manchester.
Dr. Verity Wainwright, Offender Health Network, University of Manchester
Dr. Lis Cordingley, Senior lecturer in Health Psychology, University of Manchester. 
Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham, Professor of General Practice Research, University of Keele.
Professor  Wendy Moncur, School of Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Dundee.
Dr. Nicola O’Leary, Lecturer in Criminology, University of Hull.
Dr. Alexandra Pitman, Honorary Research Associate, Division of Psychiatry, University College London.
Dr. Jo Bell, Senior lecturer, School of Social Sciences, University of Hull.
Associate Professor Myf Maple, School of Health, University of New England. Australia


Research Projects