Research Theme

Mental health and psychological wellbeing


This multi-disciplinary research theme comprises staff from the School of Health and Social Care as well as staff from other departments including Psychology and Life Sciences.

The theme has a diverse range of interests across the broad area of mental health and psychological wellbeing with applications for health services, communities, social care and charitable work.

Current research projects

Evaluation of recurrent care services

Since 2013, a multi-disciplinary team of researchers have been involved in evaluating services that are working to empower birth mothers involved in repeat care proceedings.

This led onto a 'change project' on recurrent care during 2018 and 2019, led by Research in Practice in partnership with colleagues in Essex and Lancaster Universities, working with 13 local authorities to assist them in developing new services in this field.

Find out more about the first recurrent care projects evaluated, and the research report.

Previous research projects

Evaluating Edge of Care pilot service

A multi-disciplinary team evaluated a pilot service in the East of England offering a therapeutically led attachment-based intervention for families on the edge of care where there were significant safeguarding concerns alongside attachment problems in the parent/infant relationship and an identified parental mental health problem.

The evaluation examined psychological and safeguarding outcomes and explored practitioner perspectives.


McPherson, S., Andrews, L., Taggart, D., Cox, P., Pratt, R., Smith, V. and Thandi, J. (2018) Evaluating integrative services in edge-of-care work. Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law. 40 (3), 299-320

Randomized controlled trial of long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy for treatment-resistant depression

The Tavistock Adult Depression Study (TADS) was the first randomized controlled trial in the NHS to establish if long term psychoanalytic psychotherapy provides relief for patients suffering from chronic depression not helped by the treatments currently provided: antidepressants, short-term courses of counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy.

Susan McPherson from the School was a member of the research team based at the Tavistock Clinic.


Fonagy, P. Rost, F. Carlyle, J. McPherson, S., Thomas, R., Fearon, P., Goldberg, D, Taylor, D. Pragmatic randomized controlled trial of long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy for treatment-resistant depression: the Tavistock Adult Depression Study (TADS) World Psychiatry 2015; 14:312–321 DOI: 10.1002/wps.20267/pdf

The lived experience of self-care in mental health in Essex

A joint University of Essex and HealthWatch Essex research project explored how people in Essex understand self-care in mental health and how primary care services support them in practicing self-care.

Three group discussions were held in different locations in Essex during January 2017 to gain an in-depth understanding of people’s views on self-care in mental health and how primary care mental health services support them in practicing self-care.


Georgiadis, A and McPherson, S (2017). The lived experience of self-care in mental health in Essex.

Analysis of the gendered rhetoric of the ADHD woman

Drawing on the traditions of discursive psychology and critical discourse analysis this study examined the presentation of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in women in a sample of the most commonly identified online YouTube videos on this topic.

The video material selected represented a combination of first-person testimonies from the “sufferer” and the sharing of “expertise” by “professionals”. Analysis involved the identification of common rhetorical devices and evaluation of the role of these devices in conveying various key meanings or themes.


Winter, H., Moncrieff, J. and Speed, E. (2015) 'Because You're Worth It': A discourse analysis of the gendered rhetoric of the ADHD woman, Qualitative Research in Psychology, 12(4), 415-434, DOI:10.1080/14780887.2015.1050748.

Experience of health visitors working with refugees and asylum seeker families

A qualitative study explored the experiences of health visitors working with refugee and asylum seeking families in central London.

The research assessed the dimensions of their cultural competency in providing equity, access and non-discriminatory services, health promotion and socially inclusive services.


Burchill, J. & Pevalin D.J. (2014) Demonstrating cultural competence within health visiting practice: Working with refugees and asylum seeker families. Diversity and Equality in Health and Care, 11(2): 151-159

Current doctoral research

The impact of the environment on engagement in therapeutic activities of service users in an acute mental health inpatient unit

The study aims to identify factors within these environments which are perceived by staff and service users as promoting or inhibiting service user engagement in therapeutic activities and to make recommendations for improvements.

It uses a mixed methods approach, involving questionnaires for staff and patients, and a qualitative component of Participatory Action Research.

Ellen Serwaa Adomako

Developing a model of therapeutic relationships between nurses and patients on acute mental health wards

The background to this Mixed Methods Research study is a history of nursing research since the 1970s in the UK exploring the relationship that develop between nurses and patients on acute mental health wards, whether and how it forms and what impact it has on patients and staff.

Susan Sookoo