Published Papers, Blogs and Talks

I have a number of published papers and blogs  (these summarise the work of others with the aim of making it more accessible to people who haven't the time to read the full paper) which all link to improving insight into mental health in schools.  My TED talk aims to describe and inform, giving suggestions as to simple measures institutions can take to take into account mental wellbeing. Through better understanding of the issues and evidence, we can make a positive change to address the needs of young people with emerging poor mental health.

Published Papers

Are personality disorders a ‘real’ mental illness? The neurology of personality disorders, trauma and deliberate self-harm. (Pre-Publication - Psychreg Journal of Psychology)

Abstract:  Personality disorders (PD) are often viewed negatively with associated behaviours such as self harm percieved as manipulative. However, such disorders are often the result of childhood trauma wiht 91% of PD patients reporting some form of past abuse. This paper looks at the impact has on the development of the brain and how the traumatised brain responds differently to emotional stimulus and acts of self harm, when compared to the untraumatised brain. 

It is recognised that there is a lot more research and depth needed in order to fully comprehend neural resposes to trauma and self harm, that is not the purpose here. This paper was writen as a challenge to present what is undoubtedly an extremely complex subject, in a way that was accessible to non-acadmics.  Increasing basic understanding the neurological causes helps; it helps reduce blame, it helps reduce stigma, it helps reduce staff frustration and feelings of incompetence, and it helps increase patience, empathy and understanding. This is crucial in helping to develop the therapeutic relationship necessary for a patient to begin to trust and to recover.


Implementing the Green Paper: The Challenges of multi-disciplinary team collaboration. A review of the evidence. (March 2020)

Abstract: The prevalence of emerging mental health disorders is increasing with the latest statistics revealing 1 in 8 have a diagnosable disorder. Services are struggling to cope with the level of demand evident from increased waiting times, compounded by a reduction in the amount of services and the failure of up to 75% of children and young people (CYP) to meet the threshold for service provision. This means that schools are often the first place CYP and their families look to seek support for mental health, making it vital that schools can respond appropriately. However, teachers often feel they lack the knowledge and expertise to handle such issues and have expressed a desire for better communication with mental health services.

The Government’s Green Paper: ‘Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision’, outlines its intention to transform services through the use of collaborative working between educational and mental health services. Now on Phase 2 of its roll out, the obstacles to its success are evident, however, the CASCADE framework piloted by the Schools Link Project offers a practical solution for all stakeholders to begin the process of improved collaboration. It is clear that for implementation to be successful, all partners must have shared goals and vision, clear lines of communication and roles, and must be active and committed to working in partnership to overcome the inevitable obstacles that will present.

Thriving Futures, a whole school curriculum response to addressing the social and emotional welfare needs of secondary school pupils. (November 2018)

The rise of mental health issues amongst children and young people is of growing national concern, one which the government is looking to address through the use of School Based Interventions (SBI). Their Green Paper (Department of Health/Education, 2017) and more recent press release (Department Education, 2018) has proposed the universal teaching of positive mental health skills. Previous attempts at introducing social and emotional education, through Targeting Mental Health in Schools (TaMHS) and UK Resilience Programme (UKRP), reveal a number of issues that need addressing in order for the for teaching of such skills to be effective: time, cost, teacher knowledge and understanding, fidelity to programme and longevity of impact.

Thriving Futures is a flexible whole school curriculum response, written by an experienced teacher, that addresses these fundamental issues. The core unit provides knowledge and understanding of why poor mental health can develop by using the cognitive behaviour technique of showing the how thoughts can impact feelings and behaviour, before demonstrating skills to help change this negative cycle. Further ‘satellite’ units refer to these core skills thus reinforcing the message through units that schools can choose according to their need. Resources have been created to fit into the British school system, to be easily accessible regardless of academic ability and to have the flexibility required to meet the individual needs of schools and requirements of OFSTED.

Published Blogs

A blog is a summary of someone elses research, condensed and made more accessible for people who do not have the time to access the full research. All blogs are published on the Mental & Education Elf, both part of 'The National Elf Service' which aims to keep professionals from a number of fields up to date with  latest health and social care research. 

A link to original research papers can be found at the end of the blog, for those wishing to explore further.

The Education/ Mental Elf aims to raise educational standards and bring evidence-based teaching to the masses.

Can brain scans help reduce the guilt and shame associated with adolescent self-harm?

This blog looks at the rapidly growing phenomena of self harm, what happens in the brain in response to this and why it can become addictive.  Understanding more about connections in the parts of the brain active or underactive in self-harm, may help in developing targeted therapies thus preventing decline into suicidal behaviours. It may also help challenge the stigma around NSSI being a form of attention-seeking behaviour.

Autism and social anxiety: qualitative research shows how we can help.

Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC) can increase the chances of developing social anxiety. This blog examines qualitative research in an attempt to understand the link between the two and measures that can be taken to help better manage this.

Autism and eating disorders: is it time to give the PEACE pathway a chance?

This blog looks at the ‘Pathway for Eating disorders and Autism developed from Clinical Experience’ PEACE pathway programme (@PEACE_Pathway), formed specifically to increase understanding and improve care for patients with a dual diagnosis of eating disorder and autism spectrum condition (ASC). Whilst the focus is specific to anorexia nervosa, it would be interesting to see what lessons learnt in this ongoing clinical trial could be applied to other mental illnesses, especially those with a diagnosis of personality disorder where a similar number of patients, around 1 in 3, have a dual diagnosis of ASC.

Targeted school-based interventions for adolescents with depression and anxiety

This is a blog of a paper that reviews the impact targeted school based intervention have on young people symptomatic of anxiety and/or depression. It is important that we recognise what does and doesn't work as we go forward to implementing the government's green paper regarding mental health in schools.

Measuring pupil progress: are we measuring the wrong things?

This examines the impact the schools accountablity tool 'Progress 8' on schools ability to address the social and emotional needs of young people and why it’s important to consider school and pupil background when interpreting exam results.

What do teachers need to support student mental health?

This summarises a qualitative study on teachers’ aspirations, needs and opinions regarding student mental health support in secondary schools.

Adverse Childhood Experiences: What's it got to do with me?

By using a mixture of poetry and scientific information, this talk provides a unique insight into the impact of ACEs and the simple things organisations can do provide safe, trauma informed environments.