Updated: Apr 29
We're delighted to welcome Dr Bethan Davies as our guest blogger for this post, and to find out how she's been getting on since completing her PhD which Mental Health Research UK funded from 2011-2015.
Back in 2011, I started my PhD at the University of Nottingham – this was the first studentship funded by Mental Health Research UK and it’s great to see they have given the same opportunity to so many more students since then. My PhD focused on university students’ mental health and digital technologies.
Having graduated in 2015, since then I have been employed as a Research Fellow in the NIHR MindTech MedTech Cooperative research group, based in the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham. MindTech focuses on research relating to development, adoption and evaluation of new technologies for mental healthcare – this area has come more important in the past year given the pandemic. Within this group, I focus on research relating to children and young people. I have done so many things in the past six years – it’s hard to keep track of it all!
One of the first tasks I was involved with in MindTech was to undertake an invited review of digital health interventions for children and young people’s mental health. Having previously undertaken a systematic review as part of my PhD, I already had the initial experience and skills needed to complete this within a short space of time. This was quite a time-demanding research project to undertake with my colleagues, and was well received by the digital health community – it’s quite regularly cited! I’m still involved in research into student mental health – I’m currently supervising a student undertaking a systematic review of prevalence of generalised anxiety in university students.
Another major project I’ve taken a lead role in has been the ORBIT (standing for ‘Online Remote Behavioural Treatment for Tics’) trial. This involved testing out an online programme for children with Tourette syndrome – but before testing it out, I was involved in adapting it from its original Swedish to English. This was an exciting opportunity to work with academics and researchers outside of Nottingham, and was also my first time being involved in a randomised controlled trial. From this experience I learnt about the complexities and resources needed to test out an intervention to see its impact upon tics and other important aspects of health in young people with tics. This project also allowed me my first step into patient and public involvement (or ‘PPI’ for short) – meaning young people with Tourette syndrome were involved in the content of the online programmes being tested and the outcomes being measured by the researchers. I was also involved in creating the adverts and videos to publicise this study to try and get info about the study out to the people who would benefit the most from it.
I’m also involved in regular supervision of undergraduate and postgraduate students - this has included projects such as testing out an online Mental Health First Aid course for medical students here at Nottingham, and exploring the experiences of people who use online support groups for Tourette syndrome and tics. Over the past year I have also been teaching on the MSc Health Psychology course at the university. I’ve been teaching about the psychology of living with chronic illness, and it’s been great to ‘give back’ to the course that I myself did ten years ago.
Even though it’s now been six years since I graduated, I am still ever learning about mental health research and growing as a researcher – personal development never ends!