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Psychology and Social Change Research Group

Current Projects

  • The myth of asexuality?: Disability stigma as a barrier to sexual relations in South Africa
  • Social media and austerity: Online peer support in mental health communities
  • Social media and austerity: Online peer support in mental health communities: Follow on project
  • The scenes and spaces of hospital life: Staff and psychiatric inpatients' experiences of care and distress
  • Unusual beliefs and experiences
  • Re-thinking psychiatric diagnosis
  • Experiencing surveillance
  • Qualitative research in practice
  • Experiences in thinking
  • Women, humour and power .... in the workplace
  • Youth unemployment and resilience
The Myth of asexuality? Disability stigma as a barrier to sexual relations in South Africa

Dr Poul Rohleder has been awarded a €100,000 research grant from the International Foundation of Applied Disability Research, for a 2-year project entitled: The myth of asexuality? Disability stigma as a barrier to sexual relationships in South Africa. The project is a collaboration between Poul Rohleder and Prof Leslie Swartz from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa; Mr Mussa Chiwaula, Director General the Southern African Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD); and Ms Stine Hellum Braathen; SINTEF Technology and Society, Norway. The project will investigate the prevailing myths and attitudes towards the sexuality of people with physical disabilities. There is an increased recognition that sexual health is a human right, yet, research evidence suggests that people with disabilities may be generally excluded from living fully sexual and sexually healthy lives. One social barrier previously identified is the myth of asexuality; that is that persons with disabilities (such as physical disabilities) are assumed to be asexual, and thus not perceived as sexual persons.

The project aims to:
  1. investigate the attitudes of the general population towards the sexuality of people with disabilities in South Africa;
  2. explore the experiences of stigma and barriers to fulfilling sexual relationships among people with disabilities in South Africa;

The project will use mixed methods for research, including an online survey questionnaire of societal attitudes, and participatory qualitative methods with persons with disabilities, including the use of Photovoice for collecting narratives from a sample of people with physical disabilities. Data from the project will be used to develop materials (a free ebook and short documentary video clips) for use by disability organisations and other relevant organisations for raising public awareness about disability, stigma and sexuality. The project runs from 1 June 2015 to 31 May 2017.

Social media and austerity: Online peer support in mental health communities

Ian Tucker and Lewis Goodings were awarded funding (£32901) by the EPSRC Communities and Culture Network+ (CCN+) to undertake a project entitled ‘Social Media and Austerity: Online Peer Support in Mental Health Communities’. The project (with Dr Lewis Goodings – Roehampton) will work with the mental health charity Mind on their new social media peer support site ‘Elefriends’. The project aims to analyse the impact of social media on peer support amongst mental health service users, set within a context of reduced spending on mental health care leading to fewer opportunities for face to face support for mental health service users. As part of C&C+ the project aims to speak to debates regarding the cultural impacts of increased digital technology usage.

Social media and austerity: Online peer support in mental health communities: Follow on project

Ian Tucker and Lewis Goodings were awarded follow on funding (£9708) to develop an innovative approach to online user engagement through the use of an animated storyboard to disseminate project findings to the online community in Elefriends. The project also includes further analysis of pilot project data in order to examine how talk of treatment acts as a central topic for community engagement on Elefriends. The pilot project identified this as a core issue for which people sought (and provided) online peer support. Elefriends provides the opportunity to connect with others facing the same challenges re treatment (e.g. managing side effects).

  • To develop an online ‘animated storyboard’ of pilot project findings to encourage user engagement with the Elefriends community.
  • To prepare for future knowledge partnerships by harnessing evidence of the way people speak about treatments in Elefriends.

The scenes and spaces of hospital life: Staff and psychiatric inpatients’ experiences of care and distress

This project aims to explore the relationships between mental distress and spaces in a variety of in-patient wards in Royal Bethlem Psychiatric Hospital in London. The project involves interviews with staff and patients on a broad range of topics relating to experiences of ward and hospital spaces. Theoretically the project aims to identify the multiple relations that exist between different forms and levels of mental distress, and the material environments in which they are experienced on a day-to-day basis. Mental health service users face many challenges in terms of employment, living arrangements, and social and personal relationships. Understanding how these problems are manifest in hospital wards is important for the design and implementation of viable and productive interventions. The project is a collaboration between Ian Tucker, Laura McGrath (UEL), Paula Reavey (LSBU), Steve Brown (Leicester) and Ava Kanyeredzi (London Met).

Unusual beliefs and experiences

This project has a number of strands.  Dave Harper is undertaking collaborative work with John Cromby (Loughborough University) examining both how experiences of paranoia are embodied and related to social inequality.  Another more longstanding strand concerns work critiquing naively realist conceptions of paranoia.  Finally, Dave Harper has been involved with qualitative research conducted both independently and with a number of trainee clinical psychologists on the UEL Professional Doctorate in Clinical Psychology.  This research has involved interviewing participants from both clinical and non-clinical groups who have beliefs which might be regarded as unusual by others.  Some of this work will appear in a forthcoming book Dave Harper is editing.

Re-thinking psychiatric diagnosis

Given the problems of reliability and validity associated with psychiatric classificatory systems Dave Harper has been involved in two collaborative projects aimed at reconceptualising the way in which we think about emotional distress.  Dissatisfied with the way in which abnormal psychology textbooks were structured by these problematic systems With John Cromby (Loughborough University) and Paula Reavey (London South Bank University) Dave Harper recently produced a textbook which attempts to develop a much more consistently psychological approach to understanding distress.  In addition Dave is a member of a small BPS DCP working party which is producing a document on how we might move beyond such psychiatric diagnostic classificatory schemes like the DSM and ICD.

Experiencing surveillance

This is a collaborative project involving Dave Harper, Darren Ellis (Law & Social Sciences) and Ian Tucker (School of Psychology). We are interested in the different ways in which people experience increasingly ubiquitous technological systems like CCTV and the internet.  In one project 31 Londoners were interviewed about their experiences of these systems and we have each led on publishing different aspects of the analysis. Recently, we have begun a project making Freedom of Information requests to NHS Trusts in relation to electronic health records.

Qualitative Research in Practice

This is a project Laura McGrath is undertaking with David Kaposi at the Open University, which involves investigating current qualitative research practice, with a particular focus on the role of interpretation in qualitative research. This project has developed out of a monthly data analysis group run by Laura in the School of Psychology open to staff, students and interested external participants.

Experiences of thinking

This is a collaborative project involving Laura McGrath and Zoe Boden (Birmingham). This is a qualitative investigation of everyday experiences of different modalities of thinking (verbal, visual, musical, kinetic). This project aims to consider how diverse experiences of thinking could mediate everyday experiences, such as a sense of self in relation to others, as well as everyday activities such as creativity and learning.

Women, humour and power … in the workplace

Sharon Cahill and Rachel Densham have just finished a review of the current literature for Funny Women & ) and Make it Global at UEL. This project will be extended via Rachel’s MSc. dissertation to explore how women working in corporate London construct their own and other’s humour in the workplace.

Youth unemployment and resilience

Kendra Gilbert and Sharon Cahill (interviewed young people who were unemployed for more than 13 months and who were enrolled on a compulsory back-to-work program in London.  They are interested in understanding what is like to be both young and unemployed (collaborating with Christian Tileaga in Loughborough) and how (if) psychologists can help both the young unemployed person and those who are paid to help them (often called Customer Advisors).