Oli Jones, Peer Researcher from The McPin Foundation, talks to us about his involvement in the public mental health programme.
What are your main research/involvement interests?
- The impact of inequalities and unfairness on mental health
- How to measure and detect changes in public mental health
- Current community interventions for public mental health
- The determinants of public mental health
- Promoting and encouraging public involvement
Can you tell me about your work at the School?
I started working on the SPHR public mental health programme in early 2019 as part of a team of five peer researchers. The programme is divided up into different work packages and I’ve had the opportunity to get involved in many streams of work with many different people!
It’s difficult to summarise because my role and the allocated tasks change every few months! But I have been involved in:
- reviewing grey literature such as policy documents and charity reports
- facilitating public workshops to help identify and prioritise the determinants of public mental health
- engaging the public and working towards making research more inclusive and accessible
- offering a ‘lived experience’ or ‘service user’ perspective on research protocols and plans
- attending and presenting patient and public involvement (PPI) work at conferences
- planning and implementing a qualitative research project focusing on inequalities and mental health
What impact has this research had?
The most recent annual scientific meeting was a great showcase of all of the work so far, I love studies that are very specific and aim to find answers to a focused question and that’s why I think the work of the PhD students in particular is so interesting and important!
I also think that the broader “big question” work undertaken so far has laid some very good foundations for future work. I see efforts such as the conceptual framework and developing a set of outcome measures as great examples of chipping away at what is at first glance an overwhelmingly large challenge. Future researchers can trust that resources have been used to secure a firm ground and now they can go further, free to explore some of the more nuanced and difficult questions raised by the programme.
What made you decide to choose a pathway in public health research?
It was an opportunity that came to me. I was interested in mental health long before I experienced such challenges myself, and I still find the topic fascinating from several perspectives. Before getting involved in research I was working for the NHS as part of a community mental health project. I learnt about McPin and the NIHR when a researcher came to visit my workplace to carry out some evaluation work, I knew straight away this was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss.
What has been the highlight of your research involvement?
There has been a multitude of great opportunities to support academic researchers throughout the programme. One highlight for me is that for phase 2 we have been allocated a work package where the peer researcher team will be taking the lead on a qualitative research study. We are supported by expert researchers but given the agency and responsibility of designing and implementing the study. The whole process has been exciting and empowering and I’m enjoying it so far.
What advice would you give to someone considering involvement in public health research?
There is no requirement to have a particular academic qualification to become a peer researcher, and therefore the role can be an accessible way for people to get involved in public health research. What is most important is that people feel strongly about improving public health and can use their life experience and perspective to influence research. I encourage everyone to jump on any chance to get involved in public mental health and engage in a way that feels right for them. I encourage researchers and organisations to continue pushing for PPI funding in their proposals and to keep creating meaningful and inclusive involvement opportunities for all.