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Supported and valued? A survey of early career researchers’ experiences and perceptions of youth and adult involvement in mental health, self-harm and suicide research

Wadman, Ruth; Williams, Jess; Brown, Katherine; Nielsen, Emma


Ruth Wadman

Jess Williams

Katherine Brown

Emma Nielsen


Patient and public involvement (PPI) in mental health research, including self-harm and suicide research, is desirable (as with other health topics) but may involve specific challenges given the perceived sensitivity of the topic. This is particularly so when involving young people. We explore the experiences and perceptions of Early Career Researchers (ECRs) undertaking youth and adult involvement work in mental health, self-harm and/or suicide research. We consider current practice, barriers and facilitators.

An online survey of a convenience sample of ECRs (N = 41) undertaking research on mental health, self-harm and/or suicide. Questions examined the perceived value of involvement work, involvement methods used, funding availability and the extent to which researchers felt knowledgeable, supported and confident in their involvement activities. Descriptive statistics are presented with appropriate tests. Open-ended questions, related to barriers and facilitators for involvement work, were subjected to an inductive thematic analysis.

Youth and adult involvement work were valued to a similar extent, though institutions were reported to value youth involvement to a lesser extent. Researchers’ knowledge, confidence and support ratings were comparable for youth and adult involvement. The involvement methods used with young people and adults were also similar, with analysing data being the least popular method used and developing resources (e.g. information sheets) being the most popular method used. Less than a third of participants reported that funding was available for their research involvement activities. Barriers to involvement in research on mental health, self-harm and suicide were: ethical issues and perceived risk; real costs (in terms of money/time) versus perceived value; and the challenge of recruiting people. Facilitators to involvement work were: expert examples, expertise and guidelines; and investment in involvement work.

ECRs in the fields of mental health, self-harm and suicide are engaged in youth and adult involvement work. They value (find worthwhile) youth and adult involvement work to a similarly high extent, but feel their institutions may regard youth involvement slightly less highly than adult involvement. ECRs rate themselves as feeling similarly knowledgeable, confident and supported when doing involvement activities with both age groups. Nonetheless, significant barriers to involvement work on these topics are reported and are generally issues that need to be tackled at an institutional level (ethical/governance issues and lack of funding).


Wadman, R., Williams, J., Brown, K., & Nielsen, E. (2019). Supported and valued? A survey of early career researchers’ experiences and perceptions of youth and adult involvement in mental health, self-harm and suicide research. Research Involvement and Engagement, 5, 1-12.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 4, 2019
Online Publication Date Apr 29, 2019
Publication Date Apr 29, 2019
Deposit Date Apr 15, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 8, 2019
Journal Research Involvement and Engagement
Electronic ISSN 2056-7529
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Article Number 16
Pages 1-12
Keywords Involvement; Engagement; Knowledge exchange; PPI; Mental health; Self-harm; Suicide; Young people
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Received: 2 November 2018; Accepted: 9 April 2019; First Online: 29 April 2019; : Ethics approval for the study was given by the School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health Ethics Sub-committee at Durham University (Ref: ESC2/2016/PP04) on the 7th March 2017. All participants gave informed consent to take part in the study.; : Not applicable.; : The authors declare that they have no competing interests.; : Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


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