Student Spotlight: Chloe Hamza

Chloe Hamza
Chloe Hamza

As many as 13 to 38 percent of undergraduate students have a lifetime history of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). This behaviour is defined as self-directed deliberate destruction or alteration of bodily tissue in the absence of suicidal intent–such as self-cutting, carving, and burning. Although NSSI can be differentiated from suicidal behaviour, emerging evidence shows that NSSI may lead to increased suicidal risk (Hamza, Stewart & Willoughby 2012).

Chloe Hamza, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology at Brock University, is looking at the link between NSSI and suicidal behaviour. Her work seeks to identify individuals with a history of NSSI who are most at risk for suicidal behaviour. It also aims to understand the mechanism through which NSSI may increase an individual’s risk for suicidal behaviour.

EENet has developed a Student Spotlight on Chloe’s work. Student Spotlights are brief profiles of up-and-coming student researchers.

Read it below or download the PDF.

What you need to know

With the support of a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship Chloe is analyzing longitudinal survey data collected from over 1,000 university students to study the link between non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) and suicidal behaviour.  As Chloe stated “identifying specific risk factors for suicidal ideation and attempts (for example, non-suicidal self-injury) is of critical importance for developing effective and focused prevention and intervention strategies.”

About Chloe

Chloe Hamza is a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology in the lifespan development stream at Brock University. She completed her undergraduate degree in psychology at King’s University College at Western University. Chloe’s interest in an academic career first emerged during her work as a CAMH research assistant. Because of that experience, she found her passion for psychology, which includes survey and research design.

A passionate community volunteer, Chloe is a recipient of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, which puts an emphasis on community involvement in order to support well-rounded researchers. The Niagara Suicide Prevention Coalition has benefitted from Chloe’s work. She’ll be taking what she learns from her research back to the coalition to further inform their work.

Chloe’s other scholarships include the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship, and the doctoral Ontario Graduate Scholarship. Chloe’s research has been published in a variety of academic journals, and she has presented at several conferences.

What is Chloe’s research about?

As many as 13 to 38 percent of undergraduate students have a lifetime history of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). This behaviour is defined as self-directed deliberate destruction or alteration of bodily tissue in the absence of suicidal intent–such as self-cutting, carving, and burning. Although NSSI can be differentiated from suicidal behaviour, emerging evidence shows that NSSI may lead to increased suicidal risk (Hamza, Stewart & Willoughby 2012).

Chloe Hamza, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology at Brock University, is looking at the link between NSSI and suicidal behaviour. Her work seeks to identify individuals with a history of NSSI who are most at risk for suicidal behaviour. It also aims to understand the mechanism through which NSSI may increase an individual’s risk for suicidal behaviour.

Chloe is analyzing longitudinal survey data collected from over 1,000 students at Brock University (4 waves of data, each collected one year apart). At each wave, students completed self-injury inventories assessing NSSI and suicidal behaviours. Chloe is also exploring whether NSSI may lead to increased risk for suicidal behaviour through increased tolerance to pain over time. Her premise is being examined through a subset of participants who have also taken part in a lab-based study.

Chloe has built in some safety measures for the participants completing the survey.  Students are asked if they want to be contacted if they are feeling extreme stress in their lives and in general having trouble coping. If the answer is “yes” trained surveyors can provide mitigating strategies for these students. 

Feedback from students indicates that in general, they appreciated filling out the one-hour survey. Some indicated that the experience was the first time they had disclosed their NSSI behaviour.  Students expressed that self-reflection is a very important part of the survey process.

A newsletter entitled Stressed@Brock brings survey results and updates to those that participated in the research. Feedback from the newsletter shows that participants seem to be anticipating the newsletters and the general results.

How can this research be used?

Little is known about the development and maintenance of suicidal behaviour over time,” says Chloe. “But identifying specific risk factors for suicidal ideation and attempts (for example, non-suicidal self-injury) is of critical importance for developing effective and focused prevention and intervention strategies.” Chloe hopes to publish her research findings in academic journals, and disseminate the findings at academic and clinical conferences. She enjoys the community work as well and strives to have her work disseminated to larger audiences.

“I hope that my research can serve to further reveal the processes through which non-suicidal self-injury may increase the risk for suicide, and assist clinicians in identifying those individuals most at risk for suicidal behaviour and create effective treatment approaches.”

What is next for Chloe?

Chloe hopes to obtain a post-doctoral research fellowship to continue her research on self-injury. Her long-term professional goal is to become an independent mental health researcher at an academic institution or research-based organization. She also plans to continue to make her work relevant for community agencies.

Selected journal articles that Chloe has published:

Thamza, C., & Willoughby, T. (2013). Nonsuicidal self-injury and suicidal behavior: A latent class analysis among young adults. PLOS ONE. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059955.

Hamza, C., Willoughby, T., & Good, M. (2013). A preliminary examination of the specificity of the functions of nonsuicidal self-injury among a sample of university students. Psychiatry Research, 205, 172-175. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2012.08.036.

Hamza, C., & Willoughby, T. (2013). A longitudinal person-centred examination of nonsuicidal self-injury among university students. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. doi:10.1007/s10964-013-9991-8.

For more information about Chloe’s research, please contact her at ch08za [at] brocku [dot] ca.

Author: Bonnie Polych, M.Ed.