I am a psychologist, a public health researcher and a youth worker. My interest in mental health began whist I was studying A-Level psychology, and it was during this time I began my career in youth work, which continued throughout and beyond my undergraduate degree in psychology at Newcastle University. My work with children and young people, and my psychology studies helped me to develop a particular interest in child and adolescent mental health. When I completed my degree, I wasn’t sure which career pathway to follow, but having seen an advertisement for a Research Assistant post – working on a large-scale research study exploring young people’s alcohol use, I thought I would dip my toe into the world of academia! I have been fortunate enough to work alongside very encouraging senior colleagues, who have supported me in developing my ‘niche’ in the field, as well as creating opportunities for me to work on a variety of projects.
“Working as a researcher in the field of public health has encouraged me to develop a particular interest in mental health at a population level, and much of my work focusses on how early intervention and preventative strategies can be designed and implemented to improve outcomes for people.”
Public mental health is a fast-developing area, and focusses on improving mental health and wellbeing, and preventing mental ill health amongst the population, and I am fortunate to be involved with pioneering work funded by the NIHR School for Public Health Research. Alongside my full-time project work, I am also working part-time towards my PhD (by published works), which is exploring the relationship between mental health and substance use through the life-course. Individuals who suffer from mental health problems are more likely to be or become dependent on substances, and individuals who misuse substances appear to be more likely to develop or suffer from mental health problems. The relationship between, and co-occurrence of, mental health issues and problematic substance use is complex, however the implications for public health approaches have yet to be explored in detail, and therefore, this is a key focus of my work. I really value and appreciate the involvement of patients and the public in my research. Qualitative research is my passion, and I feel so privileged to be able to hear the stories shared by those for whom my research is so relevant and important.
“I also value the opportunities I have to disseminate my research widely, with policymakers, practitioners, and the public. This really helps to shine a spotlight on the importance of mental health, and challenge pre-existing stigmas and stereotypes.”
I am proud of many of my achievements since I began my journey in academia, including presenting my research on school-based mental health support at the European Conference on Mental Health in Belfast; my first first-author paper being published in the Journal of Public Health; co-authoring the Tyne and Wear Citizens ‘Living Well’ report; being invited to sit as a panellist at a post-graduate mental health event; and supervising undergraduate and post-graduate students. Looking to the future, my main goal is to ensure that my research is original, respectful, meaningful, and leads to positive and tangible impacts on policy and practice – and therefore helping to improve people’s lives.