We ensure the outcomes of our research benefit a wide body of users through relationships with non-academic beneficiaries including people who experience health and mental health difficulties; health and mental health practitioners, professionals and policy makers; commercial organisations working to increase accessibility to health, mental health and wellbeing interventions; and facilities that look after animals.
Combined Universities Brain Imaging Centre
We are an affiliated member of the CUBIC Magnetic Resonance Imaging facility at Royal Holloway, University of London.
People affected by mental health issues
We work with organisations who support those affected by mental health problems to understand their needs and objectives and focus our research accordingly.
For example, we have partnerships with The McPin Foundation and Youth Access to support the development and provision of counselling in the community and voluntary sector. Our research has enabled these partners to enact policy change and successfully bid for vital funds, thereby shaping the ability of the third sector to support to people with mental health difficulties and ensuring improved access to mental health support for those that need it. We also engage with local stakeholders such as Roehampton Youth Centre and Alton Green Regeneration to support our local community through our research. Mick Cooper’s inventory of preferences for shared decision making in psychotherapy has been used by patients worldwide.
Mental health practice and policy
We engage with practitioners, professionals and policy makers to inform practice and policy around mental health interventions and access to services. For example, through working with the Department for Education, Mick Cooper’s ESRC funded ETHOS study, a multicentre trial of school-based humanistic counselling in adolescents, has had direct impact on school counselling programmes and associated governmental policy.
Similarly, Cecilia Essau’s work to develop and disseminate ‘Super Skills for Life’, a resilience-building programme for children and adolescents, has increased access to evidence-based mental health interventions for young people by being embedded in government mental health policies in Malaysia, Mauritius and Romania, and has supported at least 600,000 children and young people across 17 countries to date.
Research by James Davies was fundamental to facilitating the 2019 Public Health England review of prescribed drug dependence and withdrawal and informing the revised UK National Institute for Care and Health Excellence Clinical guidelines on antidepressant withdrawal. Our staff, led by James Davies, have also worked with a range of stakeholders, including the APPG for Prescribed Drug Dependence and the British Psychological Society, to disseminate and discuss a documentary film, Medicating Normal, as part of guidance for psychological therapists, that enables conversations with clients taking or withdrawing from prescribed psychiatric drugs.
Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the mental health of NHS healthcare workers
There was and remains an urgent need to understand the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the mental health of NHS healthcare workers. The COVIDA Study, run by Dr James Gilleen and a team of consultant psychiatrists, psychologists and data scientists across various NHS trusts and research institutes, is a longitudinal project investigating this impact and has recently published the largest UK study examining these effects to date.
The study surveyed nearly 3000 NHS healthcare workers around the peak of the first wave and found a quadrupling of the number of staff with high levels of anxiety, depression and PTSD compared to pre Covid. One in three had severe levels of anxiety and depression; and 1 in 7 had high PTSD symptoms – these were highest for ‘frontline’ staff. The most severe levels of these symptoms was statistically linked to increased perception of being at risk, insufficient access to or pressure to reuse PPE, insufficient workplace preparation, training and communication, and higher workload. Ability to share stress at work nearly halved the risk of having high mental health symptoms. For other key findings the paper, which was published in British Journal of Psychiatry (open), can be read here.
This research allows us to recognise the scale of the burden on healthcare workers, raise public awareness, as well as provide a foundation to develop new strategic approaches to reduce their psychological burden. Recommendations from this work included ensuring that staff feel less at risk or in danger, have access to the required level of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and be less over-worked, with better staffing and more rest time.
The COVIDA findings have been included as evidence in:
- A UK Government Commons Select Committee on the Impact of Covid
- A Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology Report on Mental health impacts of COVID-19 on NHS staff report – to which Dr James Gilleen served as scientific advisor
- The British Academy / Government Office for Science report on Covid-19 and Society
- The ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health / KCL independent review on Long term societal implications of Covid-19
Additionally, these findings have been reported widely in international newspapers and magazines (as listed on PURE).
Going forward, the COVIDA study will continue to help to build a picture of the mental wellbeing of NHS healthcare workers as the pandemic evolves. Data from the second wave are currently being analysed.
This research is part funded by a Research England Strategic Priorities Fund award to Dr James Gilleen.