Call for Suicide Prevention Research Proposals – deadline for expression of interest: 21st July 2023

Content warning: Suicide. Please navigate away if this topic is likely to cause you distress.

The context

Latest research suggests that 1 in 36 people are autistic. Autistic people are our friends and neighbours, living in virtually every street across the country. Today, there is a mental health crisis in the autistic community – many autistic people suffer severe anxiety and depression, with 8 in 10 reporting mental health problems. These problems have their roots in a society that fails to understand or invest in meeting the needs of autistic people. As a result, a crisis is playing out every day in families, homes, schools, the NHS and hospitals, social care and residential settings all over the country.

Nowhere is the crisis more starkly conveyed than in statistics showing a dramatically reduced life expectancy. Early deaths are largely avoidable – they are the outcome of systemic and overlapping failures. Diagnosis is painfully slow – a 2- or 3-year wait is not unusual. Even with a diagnosis, the support, interventions and care on offer are poorly evidenced, underfunded and inconsistently delivered. For many autistic people, no support is offered after a diagnosis. Along with further inequalities in access to education and employment, this results in autistic people being isolated, stigmatised and discriminated against in all stages and walks of life.

The consequences are devastating

Six in 10 autistic people have considered suicide and around one in three have actually planned or attempted to take their own life. We believe the unnecessary life-long (and largely unseen) battle against inequality has become a fact of life for autistic people and their families and that this needs to change. The rights that most of us are able to take for granted are just not in place for autistic people.

The Autism Centre of Excellence aims to remove barriers and stigma for autistic people. It commissions breakthrough science, campaigns, and partnerships in order to:

  1. Reduce avoidable deaths caused by suicide, epilepsy, or other health conditions.
  2. Reduce avoidable hardship in life caused by inequality, exclusion, isolation, or maltreatment.

Suicide prevention is our first mental health priority

We have established a suicide prevention project team, bringing together those with lived experience and experts from research institutes combining experience in the fields of autism, suicidality and suicide prevention. Our belief is that all suicides are preventable but we need more research to fully understand the link between autism, mental health and suicide.

We are seeking world-class research proposals to help us save lives

We are inviting researchers in the UK to submit research proposals that will help our work to reduce the number of autistic people who die by suicide. We are open to considering any proposal that meets this broad aim.

How to apply

Applications should be for no more than £250K and should aim to provide results as quickly as possible, ideally within 1 to 2 years.

Notification of Intent to Apply

Email notification of intent to apply must be made to by 21st July 2023, 9am BST, and must include:

  • Descriptive title of the proposed research.
  • Lay summary up to 250 words briefly outlining the proposal.
  • Name and affiliation of lead researcher and list of their academic publications and past grants they have managed.
  • Names of other members of the proposed research team (if any).
  • Estimated total cost and timescale of proposal.

If you do not receive confirmation of receipt, please resend from another email address to ensure your message has been received.

Each submission will be reviewed by the Autism Centre of Excellence on the basis of potential for impact on suicide rate, value for money, lead researcher’s academic track record, scientific merit, and timescale. We will notify the applicants whether or not we would like to see a full application by 5pm BST on 25th July 2023.

Full applications (by invitation only, as above)

Full applications must be received by 11th August 2023, 5pm BST and will be considered if they include:

  • Details of research questions, methodology, expected analysis and type of results to be delivered.
  • Rationale explaining how the research could potentially be translated into reduction in the suicide rate for autistic people. Note that this translation will be outside of the remit of the research study itself, and the application should simply include a feasible proposed pathway.
  • A lead applicant from a UK-based research institution.
  • Details of the researcher(s) involved.
  • The names of at least two proposed scientific peer reviewers who would be in a position to review the topic in question.
  • Clear timescales and budget breakdown.
  • Evidence or track-record of delivering similarly scaled projects on time and on budget.
  • Evidence that the proposed research meets our criteria of being world-class, novel, timely, and good value for money.

Full applications should be submitted via email to If you do not receive confirmation of receipt, please resend from another email address to ensure your message has been received.

What happens next

The Autism Centre of Excellence will notify all applicants whether they are on the shortlist for scientific peer review by 25th August 2023. Final decisions are at the discretion of the Board and will take into account scientific peer review, best use of funds, scientific quality of applications, potential to lead to impact on suicide rate, clarity of timescale, budget, deliverables and evidence of ability to deliver the proposed project.