Savitri Hensman, the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) South London's patient and public involvement coordinator, reflects on issues of safety, control and health. The disappearance of Sarah Everard, on her way home in south London in March, and subsequent discovery of her body, has led to an outpouring of sadness for her, her family and friends.
Since then, many women have shared their own experiences of sexual or physical harassment, attacks or threats.
A court hearing for the Blackheath man alleged to have murdered two sisters, Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, whose bodies were found in a Brent park, has further highlighted the issue of violence against women and girls. In both cases, serious questions have arisen about the action of police officers, which tie into issues of power and accountability.
In addition, widely-aired concerns about a south London school have recently highlighted alarming levels of sexual harassment and violence faced by schoolgirls more widely. Reportedly local girls and boys tried five years ago to draw attention to a “culture of misogyny”, along with use of homophobic and racist slurs The same year, a parliamentary committee pointed to major problems in schools nationally, yet this too did not lead to adequate action.
There is now extensive evidence of the connections between safety and health, especially of those facing social and economic inequalities. Sometimes violence results in serious injury or death. A wider number of people who are attacked or menaced may undergo trauma, while others may be left with a lingering sense of insecurity or humiliation.
Public spaces are not always welcoming to all the public: sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia are still all too common. Lack of access may leave disabled people feeling yet more unsafe or excluded. Even the home may not be a safe space, as the surge in domestic abuse during the pandemic has shown. Poverty makes it harder to escape from risky situations, while hostels, asylum centres, care homes and other places with multiple residents vary greatly in how secure they feel. Yet health research which is not specifically about such issues often fails to take on board the wide-ranging effects, including drawing on findings from other disciplines.
For instance, studies often focus on encouraging people to lead healthier lifestyles, yet with little recognition of the hugely different ways in which people might experience their physical and social environment. For many, a walk or run may offer a welcome boost to their mental and physical health – but for others, it may be stressful because they are, or feel, unsafe. And some people may have experienced such disempowerment at critical times in their lives that they may have little confidence that their choices can make much of a difference. Or they may not trust advice from the authorities, after bad experiences.
People from all backgrounds can find themselves on the receiving end of violence, harassment or intimidation, which may affect their health in varying ways. Yet often lack of safety reflects and reinforces existing inequalities, as well as getting in the way of seemingly simple ways in which people could improve their own health. This is not to say that those on the receiving end are just victims – many have played a key role in raising awareness, caring for others and bringing about change.
Being more consistently aware of the complex ways in which safety (or lack of it) may influence health could enrich research. Greater involvement of diverse people and groups, including those addressing violence or its aftermath, and valuing lived experience are important. The death of Sarah Everard and other recent events are a reminder of the value of listening to a range of voices and recognising the injustices which complicate the work of improving health, as well as valuing the initiatives within communities to try to keep more people safe and well.
This blog was first published by the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) South London. Original link here.
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 BETHAN PELL DISCUSSES HER Creative Methods in Qualitative Research TRAINING course
Have a read below to see what our ECR bursary winner Bethan Pell did with her award money. To find out how you can apply to our ECR Bursary Scheme click here.
My background as a former Independent Domestic Violence Advocate gave a realistic insight into the impact of domestic violence and abuse on children and young people, igniting a desire to contribute to relevant, impactful research in this area. While developing my doctoral proposal, I recognised the value of creative and visual methodologies as an alternative way for children and young people to articulate, express and represent experiences and feelings. I wanted to learn more about how I could use these methods in my proposed research with potentially vulnerable, child participants.
I was therefore delighted to be awarded VAMHN Early Career Researcher Bursary and used it to attend the Social Research Association’s ‘Creative Methods in Qualitative Research’ Online Training Course. The course involved two interactive half day workshops, which took place online over zoom. It covered a range of topics including: the theoretical underpinnings of creativity in qualitative research; practical and ethical considerations when using creative and visual methods; creativity throughout the lifecycle of research and the role of the researcher within this.
The course was extremely valuable in developing my knowledge, experience and skills in several ways. Most importantly, I developed my understanding of existing theoretical frameworks and paradigms in creative and visual research methods, improving my ability to apply theory-practice links when selecting, using and analysing these. The workshop activities provided opportunities to experiment directly, helping me to gain a critical understanding of the practical and ethical considerations involved during implementation. They also highlighted the participant experience and enhanced my appreciation of creating representations and embodying their experience through visual metaphors.
I was surprised by the possibilities of using creative and visual methodologies in all aspects of the research process, from conception to dissemination. The course really tried to encourage us to push the boundaries and get creative and I have developed practical ideas in relation to this, which I am excited to try out! I loved interacting and engaging with other like-minded researchers – sharing our ideas and insight throughout the course to consolidate learning. Furthermore, online delivery of the course revealed how some of the methods could be adapted remotely, a particularly welcome bonus when considering the current climate!
I am extremely grateful to VAMHN for the opportunity to attend this course, where I have strengthened my knowledge, understanding and experience of using visual and creative methodologies. I hope to use this learning to strengthen my intended doctoral study research proposal.
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.
Khadj Rouf watches 'What's The Matter With Tony Slattery?', a Horizon documentary.
Tony Slattery is a brave man. Brave to allow cameras and documentary makers to follow his journey into consulting rooms, to watch raw and intimate moments, to chart an unfolding story. Inevitably, there must be moments that we didn’t see, details which were edited out. So this review can only be based on what was included as visible narrative.
This moving documentary began explicitly with the question of diagnosis. Tony outlined his long struggles with mental health, but searching for an answer about what was wrong. The premise of the documentary was that if diagnosis was unclear, then treatment would be unclear. In essence, this programme was asking, ‘what is wrong with Tony?’.
There was a review of notes, of his history and symptoms, and debates about whether there was a missed diagnosis of bipolar disorder. There was a layering of presenting issues – talent and fame, overwork, alcohol misuse, cocaine, sleep deprivation, elated mood, slipping into mood swings, paranoia, depression, isolation and his feeling of stasis.
The language used in the narrative was interesting – strikingly medical. We were led through a story which searched for ‘diagnosis’; ‘treatment’; and at points, made references to a ‘diagnosis lurking there’ or Tony being ‘suspected’ of having bipolar disorder. Several times, Tony mentioned waking up angry, and it wasn’t clear why; no-one appeared to pursue it.
Eventually, there was a question about Tony’s past, and whether it could be linked to his problems. When Professor Ciaran Mullholland enquired about Tony’s past, the scene was incredibly powerful. Tony spoke bluntly, relating a shocking experience, with the burst of someone who’d been waiting years and years to speak about what had happened to him. He disclosed that he’d suffered sexual abuse by a priest when he was 8 years old. This appeared to be the first time that any link had been made between childhood sexual abuse and his mental state; that the ‘symptoms’ could be seen as efforts to cope with abuse and its aftermath. Tony had already disclosed to his long term partner, Mark; but it was clear that Mark was taken aback by Tony’s stark words in the consultation. Abuse can have profound effects upon people, and it can take decades to feel able to speak about it.
What was especially saddening was that it appeared as though no clinician had asked him about abuse before. It was heartbreaking to hear Tony trying to digest that abuse could have harmed him, using terms like ‘self-indulgence’ when he was speaking about it. These comments are a window into the pressures on victims not to speak up, perhaps particularly for male victims within a society that promotes self-reliance and silence around men’s health. His partner, Mark, quietly pointed out how often Tony referred to his traumatic past, more than Tony realised.
For me, Tony’s story reinforced the importance of routine enquiry (Read et al., 2007; Read & Bentall 2012), foregrounding the issues around disclosures of non-recent abuse (BPS, 2016) and the need for trauma informed responses in mental health services (Sweeney et al, 2016). I was disappointed by the absence of a clinical psychology voice in the programme.
Tony disclosed and there was almost passing reference to talking therapy for trauma. But his story of trauma appeared to slip away. Even as Tony mused on whether he was drinking to avoid other issues, he was redirected – in a somewhat didactic conversation - to reduce alcohol.
There was a chance for this documentary to match Tony’s bravery – to move to ‘What happened to Tony Slattery?’
The apparent sidelining of his trauma was startling. For all of us, it is our personal stories which make us who we are. It is under-recognised trauma which may explain ‘medication resistance’ for a number of people within mental health services. Drugs can dull pain, but they don’t rewrite the meaning of that pain. That is where talking is medicine.
Watch the programme now
Dr Khadj Rouf, Consultant Clinical Psychologist
Khadj is Chair of the BPS Safeguarding Advisory Group, and works for Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust. She is also a survivor of child abuse and has also published resources from a personal perspective. Find more about her and her work in our archive.
If you have been affected by the issues in this article, please see sources of support:
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.
Happy new year! We hope you had a great Christmas break. Now that we've completed our first year here at the Violence, Abuse and Mental Health Network, we'd love to hear your thoughts on what we’ve done so far and where we can go from here.
Please let us know your feedback by completing this short 5 minute survey: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=FM9wg_MWFky4PHJAcWVDVso_YOX1DpNAlNWCPiC4aLJUQTM0ODVGVUlNTVRHTUlXQTYyMEFHTVIxWC4u All responses are completely anonymous.
Thank you so much to all our members for making it such a great year, and we look forward to engaging with you all in 2020.
A huge thank you to everyone who came to our second open network meeting on the 7th October at Nottingham University. The day was filled with fascinating presentations and exciting discussions. A special thank you to Dr Julie McGarry for hosting us, and thank you to our other amazing speakers:
We were pleased to start off the day by launching the VAMHN "Survivors' priority themes and questions for research consultation report", which you can download here. Concetta Perôt who co-authored the report has also written a blog post about the report which you can read here.
Vanessa Garrity of WeMHNurses was live tweeting the event and has also produced several podcast interviews with our speakers which you can listen to below. You can also have a look at some selected slides that were shown on the day.
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.
The VAMHN is delighted to announce that we are recruiting for a Lived Experience Involvement Officer. The position will be 30% FTE with a salary of £28,717 to £31,831 per annum (pro-rata) inclusive of London Allowance (pro-rata). The post holder will contribute to the development and delivery of the network’s survivor and service user involvement strategy. The deadline for applications is 30th October 2019. For full details and to apply click here.
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.
On April 17th, the network was delighted to attend UKRI's Cross-Disciplinary Mental Health Network Launch event. A huge thanks to the amazing Dr Helen Fisher of King's College London for presenting on behalf of VAMHN. To download her presentation slides click here. Additionally, if you would like to watch the livestream of the event provided by The Mental Elf, click here. You might not know that we are one of eight networks funded by UKRI - all networks focus on different aspects of mental health, but several have relevance to preventing and reducing the harms associated with domestic and sexual violence. If you would like to find out more about them and what they do, please have a look at their websites below:
On 11th March 2019, the Violence, Abuse and Mental Health Network held its first network meeting at the St Pancras Community Centre in London. These meetings are held every 6 months and are a chance to discuss network strategy and activity; for members to meet and discuss key issues relating to violence, abuse and mental health; and provide a platform for members to present recent work and research findings.
The day began with an introduction from network co-lead Dr Sian Oram, who spoke about the network’s vision of reducing mental health problems by addressing associated violence and abuse, particularly domestic and sexual violence. Work to achieve this vision will be organised into three thematic areas: developing a shared language and approach to measurement, understanding the pathways to domestic and sexual violence and their relationship with mental health, and building more effective interventions. However, within this overall plan there is flexibility to respond to the research priorities of people with lived experience of violence, abuse and mental health problems as well as to those of other network members. So one of the first network activities is to conduct work to understand these priorities. Dr Dan Robotham from the McPin Foundation reported on the methods and preliminary findings from this work; full results will be published and circulated in the next few months.
The theme of collaboration continued with a round-table activity in which participants discussed: a) What are the most significant opportunities and challenges for the network over the next 4 years? b) What does co-production mean in the context of this network c) How can we make the most of member expertise and resources to make this network effective and high impact? d) What will make this network worthwhile to its members so that people continue to join and stay? e) How do we avoid having silent members who have signed up but don’t actively engage? There was a huge amount to be gained from the wide range of people in the room, coming from different backgrounds, sectors and academic fields with a variety of experiences of these issues. To read a summary of the answers given click here.
In the afternoon, we were delighted to welcome speakers from two of our partner organisations: Safe Lives and Standing Together Against Domestic Violence. Suzanne Jacob, Emma Vallis and Shanti Rao spoke about the SafeLives Whole Picture approach and findings from the evaluation of the Drive project, which aims to change the behaviour of perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse. Sarah Hughes from Standing Together Against Domestic Violence then spoke about implementing lessons learned from analysing Domestic Homicide Reports.
In the second afternoon session, three members of the Domestic Homicide International Research Network presented on three different aspects of domestic homicide. Dr Khatidja Chantler from the University of Central Lancashire focused on the characteristics and mental health of victims and perpetrators of parricide (homicides committed by a child against one or both of their parents). The key findings of the pilot study highlighted the need for a higher level of professional understanding when it came to domestic abuse, as domestic abuse was rarely considered in the context of patients with physical and mental health needs. Then Professor Solveig Vatnar from Molde University College in Norway looked at the issue of substance abuse in cases of domestic homicide. Her research found that biological traces of substance abuse could be found in 53.1% of the homicide perpetrators and 41.2% of the victims. Lastly, Professor Nicky Stanley explored the effects of domestic homicide on children and found that domestic homicide reviews give scant consideration to the ongoing needs of child survivors. Overall these talks stressed the need for a stronger collaboration between health services, social services and domestic violence organisations.
Dr Sian Oram closed the day, reporting on upcoming events and activities, including information about the network’s first small grant competition and plans to develop an online data resource to bring together information about datasets that hold information on violence, abuse, and mental health.
If you missed the meeting, The Mental Elf recorded a number of podcasts with some of the speakers and other network members which you can listen to at the bottom of this post. You can also download the slides from all of the presentations by using the link below.
The next meeting will be taking place in Nottingham on 7th October. Speakers, and other details of the day will follow later this year along with booking instructions. Look out for more details in our newsletter. We hope that you will be able to join us then!
Ariana Markowitz is a PhD student based at the Bartlett Development Planning Unit. Her research focuses on how fear and trauma manifest and become defining parts of urban landscapes. Taking cues from this damage, especially in marginalized communities, she looks for alternative ways of repairing frayed social fabric and healing.
In 2018, she spent some time in El Salvador, one of the most violent countries on earth talking at length to people who have experienced trauma about those experiences.
In this blog piece, she talks about her emotions while working in El Salvador and after she had returned to London including struggles with her own mental health. She also discusses the limitations of the guidance given to researchers who are working in violent contexts and gives some recommendations to those who are thinking of carrying out similar research.
NB. The piece in the blog linked contains graphic content
On Friday, this network was officially launched at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. During the event, the Mental Elf recorded interviews with some high profile members of the network. These include the network co-investigators; Louise Howard, Sian Oram, Sylvia Walby, Seena Fazel and Leonie Tanczer as well as Dean of the Royal College, Kate Lovett, and Director of Birkbeck Institute for Social Research, Felicity Callard.
We will follow up with some additional information from the launch, but in the meantime these podcasts should give a sense of the aims and intentions of the network going forward.