Blog - March 2013

The New Year has bought on many new challenges for me – I have now collected data from my online survey, have cleaned it up and need to start statistical analysis. Initial findings seem to show that about half the students surveyed reported some degree of depressive or anxiety symptomology. I will be analysing this in the upcoming weeks to further explore the data.

The systematic review is now in the “second draft” stages, hurrah! Last year I was informed of a conference that would be relevant to my studies – the International Society for Internet Interventions holds a biannual conference where current research within the field of e-health is disseminated and presented to other relevant academics, researchers, students and clinicians. I submitted an abstract based on my review, and I was very pleased to hear it got accepted for their next conference! The conference is being held in May in Chicago, USA – this will give me great experience of dissemination and networking with others in the field. I also applied for a travel bursary available within the University Of Nottingham’s Graduate School – and thankful to hear that they have awarded me a grant to help towards funding this trip.

I have also begun another one of my research projects, which involves interviewing university students about emotional difficulties they may have experienced during higher education. To date I have managed to do sixteen interviews – I’ve found it difficult to keep up with the transcription of these though, but it must be done! Many of the students I’ve spoken to have experienced emotional distress or mental health difficulties – and I’m very grateful to them for participating and telling me about their personal experiences. Their experiences will be analysed qualitatively and will contribute towards the development of the online resource.

In addition to this, I am a committee member on the Midlands Health Psychology Network – this is a forum for health psychologists and students within the Midlands. My role within the committee was to co-organise and deliver their annual conference - this was on 14th February at the University of Birmingham. I quite enjoyed organising this, and got some hands-on experience of what it means to put on a conference! Given that it was Valentine’s Day, the conference theme was “Matters of the Heart” and our keynotes delivered presentations in line with this theme: Professor Gill Furze spoke about her research into the role of beliefs and illness perceptions in cardiac rehabilitation, and Professor Roger Ingham spoke of young people’s sexual health and the complexities involved in research in this area. I really enjoyed the day and it was great to speak to other students working in the field of health psychology.

Blog - August 2013

In mid-May I was very fortunate to be able to travel to Chicago to attend International Society for Research on Internet Interventions (ISRII) annual conference. A combination of financial support from the university’s graduate school and my school meant I could afford to go on this trip. Here the leaders in the field of internet interventions were gathered – there were researchers from across the globe, and it was a great opportunity to network and discover what's currently happening in this rapidly-expanding field of research. I had brought with me a poster which presented my current findings from my review to show to relevant researchers. Unfortunately it appeared that another research team had conducted a similar review to mine, which was a bit discouraging – but through talking to the lead author I learnt about their review and that we did have some differences as to how we’d conducted our review. All was not lost! Since then I have been re-working my review and conducting a meta-analysis of depressive, anxiety and psychological distress outcomes reported in the included interventions. The findings from my review do support use of website-based interventions for improving mental health of university students – but with some limitations, such as small sample sizes and the use of skewed data within outcome measures.

The conference was over three days and was a great opportunity – I was very grateful to have gone and it was a particular challenge for me given that I am not a very good flyer! However the journey both ways was great and I managed to incorporate some sightseeing around Chicago – including going up one of the tallest buildings in North America!
I have been progressing with analysing and writing up the results from my online survey. Analysis of the data found that 36.4% of the sample screened for moderate-to-severe levels of depressive, anxiety or hypomania symptoms, and it is of note that 61.2% (n=169) of this group had not sought any professional help for their mental wellbeing. Feelings of tiredness/lethargy and worrying too much about different things were the depressive and anxiety symptoms most commonly reported by the student sample. The findings of this study will be used in the development of the online resource and will hopefully be submitted for publication.

I have also conducted interviews with 37 undergraduate students about mental wellbeing – these have all been transcribed and I have now begun to analyse the data. Themes relating to students’ experiences of mental health difficulties and help-seeking for mental well-being will be explored within the interviews. I am very grateful for the students who took part, and it has been interesting to listen to their range of experiences. Overall this Summer I am continuing with analysing data from the different studies and finishing off my review, in preparation for developing the online resource.

Blog – December 2013

I have completed my systematic review and meta-analysis, and after reviewing and editing it many times have now submitted it for review to the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR). At the conference I attended in Chicago last May the journal’s editor was interested in the review, and so I am hoping it will be reviewed favourably. In this review, I concluded that computer-delivered and website-based interventions for depression, anxiety and psychological distress can be effective in improving these outcomes – but mostly when compared to an inactive control group. There were several limitations to the findings, including the use of small sample sizes and over-sampling of psychology students. Hopefully when this review is published, I will be able to share more of this with you all.

I have been making progress in analysing the interviews I conducted with students. Between July and September I used thematic analysis to help me identify codes and subsequent themes from the data. I reached the stage wherein I was satisfied with the themes and subthemes that had developed, so I randomly took thirty quotes that had been assigned to the themes and along with a codebook, handed them to an academic within my department so that inter-rate reliability could be explored. Some preliminary findings map on to previous help-seeking theory within the field – for example some students mentioned concerns about whether their mental distress is a normal aspect of everyday life or whether it needs intervention. This finding is in line with previous research that suggests young adults may rationalise their mental distress as being normal.

While I have been waiting to hear from the journal regarding my review and for feedback about the inter-rater reliability, I have been making progress with writing a thesis chapter about help-seeking for mental health and mental health literacy in young adults/university students. This has been exceptionally helpful in aiding my understanding of the topic, as well as being helpful in analysing the interviews. I have also outlined what is going to be on the online resource and have started making a plan as to how to explore the feasibility and conduct pre-evaluation of it prior to it being fully trialled. I am looking forward to 2014 and progressing further on with the PhD.

Outside of the PhD, I have been continuing to make sure I have a hobby to help alleviate any stress I may feel! I go swimming twice a week and have been making great improvements with my technique. I have also been crocheting and knitting away as always. The Institute of Mental Health held their annual Christmas bazaar in December, and I had crocheted a bunch of snowflakes and Christmas trees – funds raised from the bazaar went to Friends of Nottingham, a local mental health charity.