VAMHN'S ECR BURSARY WINNER Nicole Renehan DISCUSSES HER attendance at the Autism and Mental Health Conference
Have a read below to see what our ECR bursary winner Nicole Renehan did with her award money. To find out how you can apply to our ECR Bursary Scheme click here.
I was delighted to be awarded the Early Career Researcher grant from VAMHN to attend the Autism and Mental Health Conference on 11th March 2021, hosted by the National Autistic Society. The purpose of the conference was to explore the specific adversities and needs of autistic people in relation to their mental health and how services have responded to them before, during, and thinking beyond the pandemic. There were four sessions including several speakers and presentations covering the broad topics of: 1) Understanding and meeting the needs of autistic people; 2) The impact of covid 3) Evidence based approaches; and a Key Note speech by Dr Peter Vermeulen on Coping with uncertainty – Strategies for well-being. All of the presentations and talks were fascinating and the pre-conference easy read booklet with engaging power point slides was really impressive.
My own interest in attending this conference stems for my research with domestic abuse perpetrators which explored how, why, and for whom UK accredited criminal justice, domestic violence perpetrator programmes work. This was an in-depth cohort study which meant that I was able to ask about the lived experiences of some of the men who attended the programme and follow them through their journeys of change. One of the men I interviewed was awaiting an assessment for autism. ‘Trevor’ had faced many adversities in his life such as domestic abuse, parental violence (by his stepfather) and mainstream school exclusion. He said that he had always felt like an ‘outsider’ and struggled to ‘associate’ with people, which had impacted on his mental health. Trevor also experienced overwhelming feelings within intimate relationships. My research documented many barriers to change. But it was identified that autistic men (certainly evidenced in Trevor’s accounts) will face additional barriers than neurotypical men in regard to programme engagement, understanding and support needs.
I attended the Autism and Mental Health conference as I wanted to further my understanding about the difficulties autistic people face in regard to their mental health. Ultimately, I wanted to extend my knowledge and research about how multiple adversities hinder autistic men’s capacity to change in the context of perpetrators programmes and how these can be developed and/or adjusted to be more responsive to neurodiversity.
There were many things that I learned. I learned that autistic people commonly experience anxiety more profoundly than non-autistic people; that feelings of (even slight) uncertainty can be compounded by absolute thinking; that anxiety can be driven by a sense of feeling ‘less than’ neuro-typical people; and that masking (to fit in with neurotypical people) can be exhausting and may result in increased anxiety and, ultimately, distress and panic. I learned that self-calming strategies could mitigate anxiety in stressful or unfamiliar situations but that such activities might be inaccessible, forbidden, and/or not socially tolerated. What this suggests, firstly, is the need for much wider understanding of neurodiversity in society. But, crucially, it suggests that much more can be done to reasonably adjust domestic violence perpetrator programmes so that they are more responsive to autistic men’s sensory, emotional, and relational needs and learning. There is no ‘one size fits all’ and so responses should be individualised. It might also involve simple messaging rather than complex programme material and concepts, and flexible programme structures for those who are unable to engage in group work environments. I would add that the needs of the whole family should be central to any intervention involving autistic people, particularly when families chose to stay together and/or child contact will be the motivation for programme engagement.
VAMHN'S ECR BURSARY WINNER Clariza saint george discusses HER Coding, Configuring and Conveying in Realist Analysis training
Have a read below to see what our ECR bursary winner Clariza Saint George did with her award money. To find out how you can apply to our ECR Bursary Scheme click here.
Realist Evaluation (RE) is a framework in which the researcher aims to identify the contexts, mechanisms, and outcomes of interventions, theories, and policies. This course teaches researchers how to synthesise their data and collect thematic elements in accordance with realist evaluation principles. Thematic elements are not always apparent and can often overlap with other themes within the text or dataset. Being able to distinguish and clearly identify these themes will allow the researcher to sufficiently convey and report their findings in a comprehensive manner suitable for final reports, presentations, and even publication. This course also demonstrated various ways for researchers to display their data visually to show relationships between the identified and coded thematic elements. The practical application of these techniques bolsters the credibility of the researcher’s final write-up by further clarifying the methodology used to obtain the results. Being able to practice the techniques learned during the four-day course in collaboration with other realist evaluation researchers helped to refine the skills gained during the training.
VAMHN'S ECR BURSARY WINNER Emilie Wildman REFLECTS ON HER managing Challenging Interviews training course
Have a read below to see what our ECR bursary winner @EmilieWildman did with her award money. To find out how you can apply to our ECR Bursary Scheme click here.
I recently attended Managing Challenging Interviews, a two-day, online training course delivered by researchers from NatCen Social Research. I wanted to attend this training before beginning data collection for my qualitative PhD study, which explores the experience of violence and aggression towards family carers from service users with severe mental health conditions. Given the potential vulnerability of the participants I will be interviewing and the potentially sensitive material we will be discussing, I hoped this training would help to develop my skillset and increase my confidence in my abilities to navigate potentially challenging interviews.
The two days consisted of a mix of theory-driven and practical sessions. I learnt many new skills and techniques to facilitate conducting productive interviews with a range of different types of participants, and to respond flexibly to potentially challenging situations that may be encountered during interviews. It was helpful to consider what constitutes best practice when conducting interviews, and how to manoeuvre through difficult situations when they arise.
I found the practical sessions particularly valuable, as these provided a space to have a go at implementing these skills and techniques through scenario-based roleplay. Additionally, playing the role of the participant as well as the researcher enabled me to experience and appreciate the various dynamics at play during the interview process. Receiving feedback on my interviewing style from the trainers and course attendees, was also very insightful.
Throughout the training, it was great to listen to and learn from the experiences of the trainers and the other course attendees. The diversity in our professions, expertise and perspectives made group discussions thought provoking and enriched my overall learning experience.
I am incredibly grateful to the VAMHN for providing me with funding to attend this course, which has been invaluable in helping me to prepare for conducting interviews.
I will be beginning data collection with confidence in the interviewing skills I have developed and in my ability to implement these.
VAMHN'S ECR BURSARY WINNER Kolia bene stanton REFLECTS ON HER SHORT TERM RESEARCH MISSION At the Durham University
Have a read below to see what our ECR bursary winner Dr Kolia Bene Stanton did with her award money. To find out how you can apply to our ECR Bursary Scheme click here.
As an independent researcher in South West, I investigate the intersection of arts and heath. By lived experiences and experiences of other individuals living with illnesses, I focus on personal stories of those individuals and am interested in the concept of Person- Centered Care, that acknowledges the patient as someone to engage as an active partner in their own care and treatment.
This is why I was genuinely delighted to be awarded the VAMHN Early Career Researcher (ECR) bursary to finance one-week research mission at the Durham University.
Researchers at the Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham University had recently launched the platform ‘Understanding the Voices’ with a rich network of partners and a wealth of resources available for use.
My main research question was how the production and distribution of such stories can be part of highly interactive and supportive that could enable healthcare professionals, carers and patients to develop their own stories and narratives. The research mission aimed at supporting on the integration and use of stories within healthcare development programmes; researching into the uses and applications of digital stories in healthcare quality improvement and as reflective tools in healthcare education.
Upon my return, I re-affirmed my belief in person-centred care, in the sense that patients are persons who are more than their illness. Within this framework, any provision of care should emanate from the patient’s experience of his/her situation, as well as his/her individual conditions, resources and restraints.
It is important for policy makers to understand that patients must be recognised to become a partner in health care. The starting point is to listen to the patient’s narrative, that along with other examinations, forms the basis for a health plan. Such a plan should be underpinned by relationship ethics and the equal value of all human beings and highlight the importance of respectfully LISTENING to the patient, as well as planning and following up care and treatments TOGETHER.
VAMHN'S ECR BURSARY WINNER Elaine Craig REFLECTS ON HER EXPERIENCE ATTENDING THE Trauma summit in dublin.
Have a read below to see what our ECR bursary winner Elaine Craig did with her award money. To find out how you can apply to our ECR Bursary Scheme click here.
I was delighted to be awarded the VAMHN Early Career Researcher (ECR) bursary to attend the Trauma Summit in Dublin. The Summit was set to bring an array of international experts in the field of trauma recovery to discuss how to bring hope, healing and renewed life for the next generation. However, lockdown measures have thrust in-person scientific conferences onto virtual platforms (including mine). So, I was intrigued to experience the pros and cons of virtual conferencing on ECRs careers.
I am currently pre-PhD and my aims for attending this conference was to use the Summit to overcome the NIHR’s reported reasons for not being a successful PhD fellowship candidate. Those include a lack of ownership and feeling like the proposal came from your supervisor(s), gaps in supervisory teams, and insufficient dissemination plans. Therefore, I hoped to (1) learn what the current theories, techniques and practices were to treat/heal trauma (2) identify research gaps/assumptions specific to trauma caused by abused (3) network with international clinical and research experts to fill gaps in my supervisory team (4) note the real world challenges in theory practice gaps to develop an action-based dissemination strategy.
The learning was just as superb as an in-person conference with no technical glitches despite 1.5 thousand attendees logging in from around the world. The emerging themes included: how lockdown measures have impacted client’s symptoms and therapy practices, how talking therapies alone are no longer enough but physical techniques encompassing the body is imperative for wholistic healing and recovery and exploring a social justice approach to trauma treatment when it is caused by intergenerational, systemic abuse. Therefore, my aims to learn and identify were more than achieve online.
The online summit was adapted to include nine live keynote presentations and six pre-recorded workshops. During the keynotes you could anonymously pose questions to the speaker that would be voted by the other attendees. The questions with the highest votes were addressed. Whilst this was a practical solution the questions ECRs posted were never asked. Nearly every question that was answered was practitioner led. This was a disadvantage of the conference as the theory practise gaps unless explicitly note in the keynote was quite hit and miss.
The biggest ‘con’ of online conferencing is the networking element. A researcher’s calendar is already often overcrowded and these conferences are the prime opportunity to establish new as well as nurture old long-term, mutually beneficial relationships that can pay you back in dividends throughout the course of your career (particularly at the beginning stages). This is where the power of Twitter comes in. With no online way of networking option, I took to the Summit’s Twitter handle and followed the keynote and workshop leaders that interested me and made sure to tweet them about their talks. Likewise, I followed the conference tweets and followed/retweeted/ the attendees whose comments sparked my interest. Whilst not quite same as in-person networking I still managed to strike up potential research collaborations for the future.
My reflections of virtual conferencing in a lockdown world would be to be proactive in your attendance. Write down beforehand what you’d like to get out of the conference. Keep a journal of your personal and professional research reflections to look over after the conference and get on Twitter and use that as a platform to facilitate networking.
VAMHN'S ECR BURSARY WINNER erin mccloskey REFLECTS ON HER EXPERIENCE attending THE "Working with Adults in the Context of Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse" course
Have a read below to see what our ECR bursary winner Erin McCloskey did with her award money. To find out how you can apply to our ECR Bursary Scheme click here.
Working with Adults in the Context of Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse course at Goldsmiths University, I have a more holistic understanding how to best support people who experience abuse and how to ethically conduct research in this field. The course explored relationship, community and societal factors that contribute to abuse with an emphasis on the impact trauma plays in the lives of those who experience abuse. There was an emphasis on spiritual abuse during this short course than normal, and I’m thankful to gained insight on this specific area that is not often discussed within the domestic violence and abuse field. There were speakers from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish services who gave detailed insight how religion is manipulated by abusers and how detrimental this type of abuse is on victims and the family system. The interconnectivity of faith and abuse was crucial to learn about as faith can be an important aspect of survivors’ lives and by not avoiding conversations about it can hinder their recovery.
As a PhD student with a keen interest in this area, this course was helpful in building my understanding of the key challenges regarding how to best support domestic violence and abuse survivors.
VAMHN'S ECR BURSARY WINNER BRIDGET STEELE REFLECTS ON HER EXPERIENCE PRESENTING AT THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF Student Personnel Administrators Strategies conference
Have a read below to see what our ECR bursary winner Bridget Steele did with her award money. To find out how you can apply to our ECR Bursary Scheme click here.
In January 2020 I had the honour of presenting at the 2020 National Association of Student Personnel Administrators Strategies conference in New Orleans. This conference was focused on effectively responding to and preventing sexual violence and mental health concerns at higher education institutions with evidence-based information and programming.
I presented findings from a systematic review and meta-analyses I conducted, exploring the risk factors for male perpetrated sexual violence at higher education institutions. Sexual violence prevention is becoming an increasing priority for schools given the prevalence of this type of violence in these settings and the profound impact it has on student mental health. Through this conference I engaged with those working on sexual violence prevention and response initiatives and data collection at higher education institutions throughout North America.
To hear and learn about the barriers that staff and administration face to create a safe and healthy environment for their students was impactful. I believe that it is essential to have my research informed by the experiences of those working on and directly impacted by sexual violence prevention and response initiatives in educational settings, especially as I begin to examine the UK context, where the body of evidence is limited when compared to the US. I am grateful to have received the VAMHN Early Career Researchers Bursary which allowed me to have this incredible learning experience and networking opportunity.
vamhn's ecr bursary winner grace carter reflects on her experience presenting at the children & young people's mental health and wellbeing conference
Have a read below to see what the third of our ECR bursary winners, Grace Carter did with her award money. To find out how you can apply to our ECR Bursary Scheme click here.
Set in the beautiful campus at the University of Stirling, I recently presented at the Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing conference, hosted by the Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection. The theme of this year’s interdisciplinary conference was ‘Communities, families, resilience and resistance’.
Based on the key findings from my PhD, I discussed the importance of prioritising the agency and voices of children who have experienced domestic violence and abuse (DVA) in intervention research and practice. This is timely as we seek to strengthen the DVA intervention evidence base and as a Core Outcome Set for children is currently developed in the UK. Presenting my research led to receiving an invitation to co-author a chapter in a book about children and DVA (watch this space!).
It was fascinating to learn how others have used a variety of creative research methods with young people, such photo elicitation in a study that invited siblings of children with eating disorders to share their stories. Also, a group of young people spoke about their own experience of co-producing a recruitment video for a study exploring children’s journeys through CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services).
Across the inspiring keynotes, papers and posters, one key message was unanimous- children have capacity for resilience and agency in adversity and their voices should be heard. This presents us with an important challenge. Do we view children as resilient and agentic in adversity, and to what extent is this reflected in practice and in the research we do with children?
As a postdoctoral researcher, I am very grateful to the VAMHN for supporting me in this opportunity to share my doctoral work and to learn invaluable lessons from others in different disciplines.
VAMHN'S ECR Bursary WINNER Ashley Mccarthy REFLECTS ON HER experience at AVA's complicated Matters training course
Have a read below to see what the second of our 5 ECR Bursary Award winners, Ashley McCarthy did with her award money. To find out how you can apply to our ECR Bursary Award Scheme click here.
I recently attended Complicated Matters: The Links Between Experiences of Domestic & Sexual Violence, Substance Use and Mental Ill-Health training delivered by the Against Violence and Abuse (AVA) project. I wanted to attend this training as I am currently working on research looking at the impact of violence on young people and more broadly, have an interest in understanding trauma.
I found this 1-day training to be a thought-provoking and valuable experience. We explored many areas of violence and abuse throughout the day, but one which stands out was the discussions on the balance of power and the disproportionate experiences of abuse and violence that certain groups have faced; not only between men and women but also between different ethnic populations as well as LGBTQ populations, etc.
We spoke about barriers to accessing support services and the impact gender, stigma, ethnicity, and culture may have on this. This made me think about past clients I have worked within the probation service, many of which had experienced trauma as well as mental health and substance misuse issues. I thought about how I may ask things differently in future because of this training. It also drew my awareness to how I might support research participants to tell their narratives in interviews while remaining mindful of trauma-informed practice.
Overall, this training has made me more equipped to work with the tangled web of domestic violence, sexual violence, substance use, and mental ill-health, and understand how difficult it can be for victims to seek support and attend services. It also provided me with greater insight, more tools, and modes of questioning to utilise when interacting with victims of violence in the future.
I am grateful to the VAMHN for providing me with the funding to attend the Complicated Matters training. It has been a beneficial experience not only for my current role but for my future career aspirations in psychology.
VAMHN'S ECR BURSARY winner Michelle Degli Esposti reflects on her visit to Professor Douglas Wiebe’s Space Time Epi Group
Have a read below to see what the first of our 5 ECR Bursary Award winners, Michelle Degli Esposti did with her award money. To find out how you can apply to our ECR Bursary Award scheme click here.
For two weeks this August 2019, I visited Professor Douglas Wiebe’s SpaceTimeEpi Group at the University of Pennsylvania. This research visit was invaluable. I gained unique access to restricted-use CDC microdata files, which allowed me to examine whether specific laws (eg, “stand your ground” self-defense laws) are contributing to the increasing rates of firearm homicides among adolescents in the US. This analysis has now been submitted as an abstract to the Firearm safety Among Children and Teens (FACTS) Research Symposium and a full paper draft is ready to submit to the American Journal of Public Health.
In addition to these research outputs, I oversaw a series of focus groups. The focus groups aimed to better understand peoples’ experiences of urban violence. My research analyses data at the population level. As a result, I often lack insight on the everyday experiences of those living with violence in their communities. Hearing these experiences has underlined the importance of public and patient involvement and helped me to identify ways of incorporating voices of others going forward.
Finally, my research visit at University of Pennsylvania was fruitful in developing new connections and fostering collaborations. I arranged and attended meetings a handful of meetings. Of which, at least two have led to collaborations on ongoing projects, including mapping out patterns of antisocial behaviour in an adjudicated sample of youth and evaluating the impact of urban greening on crime.
The opportunity to spend two weeks working in a different research environment has been invaluable for my career development. I am incredibly grateful to colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania for their mentorship and to VAMHN for their support – without which this experience would have not been possible.
The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) at King's College London is now awarding funded postgraduate research studentships to support doctoral research and training in the social sciences. These are available for three or four years full-time, either as a three year PhD or as a one-year Masters followed by a PhD.
The competition for the upcoming academic year is now open and applications are due by Thursday 31st January at 5pm. If you are interested in applying for this funding, please follow this link to the KCL student funding website.