Your research and projects

Thank you for sharing your inspiring research and projects related to mental health and wellbeing.

Chris

Dr Chris Blackmore

ScHARR

I would like to bring a Wall of gratitude to Sheffield.

Gratitude has been proven to have many benefits including health, enhanced empathy, improved self-esteem, reduced aggression and even better sleep. Walls have been in the news recently – as symbols of division – but at Sheffield’s wall of gratitude, the positivity and hope of the city will be on display, where people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds can publicly declare their thanks for something, be it big, small, personal or universal. The wall will be populated with expressions of gratitude that we, the people of Sheffield, contribute.

I entered this idea to a recent competition, run by Sheffield Flourish, and they are now interested in making it a reality.

I'll be sharing further details soon. An event is scheduled for 30 May 2017 for anyone who wants to get involved. I will be presenting the idea at the Festival of Debate on 9 May at the event What can I do to make my city a better place? so anyone who wants to find out more can come along to either of those events.

Dr Ross Cameron

Department of Landscape

Can flowers and green landscapes improve a citizen’s well-being?

This is a question being posed by the Royal Horticultural Society, with research commissioned with the University. Lauriane Suyin-Chalmin-Pui is a PhD student currently attempting to ‘re-green’ an entire terraced street in Salford to address this question. Lauriane will assess resident’s mental wellbeing and stress levels before and after 25+ front gardens are given the make over treatment and used to transform a small part of Salford into a colourful oasis.

The research aims to determine the extent to which plants/nature can influence residents’ mood and social interactions. The research is part of the RHS’s Greening Grey Britain initiative. Each household who volunteered is presented with a small tree, flowering shrubs and two large pots of bedding plants. The ‘price’ the resident pay, is to be interviewed on four occasions over the next year!

Lauriane will assess results against controls to determine if the garden effect promoted any change in either short or long-term stress reduction and mental wellbeing. The initiative sounds as if it has the power/resources of the entire RHS behind it, but in effect Lauriane is single-handedly recreating 25 gardens on her own. Her supervisor, Dr Ross Cameron, Landscape wonders what this is doing to her stress levels!

Flower garden

Brass Band

Dr Michael Bonshor

Department of Music

The associations between wellbeing and musical participation have received widespread media attention, usually emphasising the benefits of singing. Dr Michael Bonshor and Dr Victoria Williamson have been exploring whether similar benefits are associated with band brass playing.

In collaboration with Brass Bands England, they surveyed 346 players, and over 62 per cent reported that brass band playing has positive effects upon their mental health. Benefits include improvements in cognitive skills, psychological resilience, self-esteem and confidence, alongside reductions in stress, anxiety and depression. Playing also encourages positive emotions; the most commonly used words included ‘happiness’, ‘joy’, ‘relaxation’, ‘calm’, ‘satisfaction’ and ‘pride’.

Respondents described playing as ‘a kind of short mental and emotional holiday’; a distraction from ‘the stresses and strains of everyday life’. One participant summarised these transformative effects on his mental health:

‘Playing in a brass band is great therapy. Having been under considerable stress for a lot of my working life, I have often come to a rehearsal or a gig feeling “all-in”, sometimes wishing that I needn’t bother. Most often I have left afterwards feeling revived again, having had something different and positive to focus on, with a real sense of achievement’.

For more information about this project email Michael at m.bonshor@sheffield.ac.uk

Dr Asha Akram

Department of Psychology

I have organised University wide events in the past to increase mental health awareness and reduce the stigma associated with mental health.

However, recently my focus has shifted towards the importance of sleep.

Sleep is very much linked to mental health and emotional regulation. I run a whole module on the Psychology of Sleep for third year students and we cover this very topic.

Please get in touch with Asha to find out more: a.akram@sheffield.ac.uk

Sleep

Library

Gill Kaye

Illingworth Library Sheffield Children's Hospital

Although we are an NHS library, some of our library staff are University staff and we cater for University staff working within the hospital as well as students using the library and NHS staff.

In the Illingworth Library, at Sheffield Children's Hospital, our main purpose is to provide staff and students with the best evidence available to support their clinical practice and education however we are conscious of the fact that many of our staff have periods of time when their work is stressful and sometimes upsetting. We try to help with health and wellbeing for our staff in a variety of ways.

We have a selection of leisure reading books available for loan - mostly comprising of titles from the mood boosting book lists.

We encourage people to come and work in the library to have a break from their clinical areas and we sell hot drinks and biscuits to promote a relaxed atmosphere - they can also bring their lunch to eat here if they wish.

We have colouring in sheets and crayons available for use in the library.

Our latest venture, launched on 3 May 2017, is a reading group which will meet once a month and is open to all staff.

Dr Emily C. Collins

Sheffield Robotics

Cultivating good mental health – addressing loneliness with robotics

I have often heard it noted that academics invariably end up researching topics that reflect their personal lives

Psychologists inspired by childhood experiences with mental illness, literature professors who become experts on the author who awoke them in their teenage years, and social roboticists, like myself, researching companion robotics in part because of experiences with loneliness and a desire to build a solution to the issue.

My PhD explored observable mechanisms of the human-animal relationship that lead to profound impacts on clinical wellbeing. How pet-ownership is directly correlated with post-operative survival. How stroking dogs not only lowers the blood pressure of the human, but the animal too as the dyad reaps mutual benefit from the release of neuropeptides in response to c-touch fibre stimulation.

As a research fellow my work now continues in biomimetics. Here I remain focused on understanding the mechanisms at work in animal companionship that negate the effects of loneliness. I endeavour to build what features I discover into new robotic devices and agents. Attempting to mimic the positive effects of human-animal bonds beyond animal-ownership to places where animals cannot go but where loneliness kills: long-term-stay hospital wards, retirement homes, or rented accommodation in big cities where people, despite being surrounded by thousands of others everyday, go home feeling desperately alone.

I enjoy that my work is practical and applied, but in the detached environment of the lab where work I remain conscious of the darker reality that drives my research: do robotics have the ability to address loneliness?

Emily Collins