09 July 2015
Research for all
Everyone can contribute to mental health research - and it's
That was the key message at yesterday's Research Public Involvement
event at Bristol Aquarium, organised by AWP's Research and
Development (R&D) team.
A full house and excellent speakers made for a truly interesting,
constructive day - which hopefully will lead to many more people
getting involved in research in many ways.
Hannah Antoniades, AWP's R&D Manager, said, "It was a real
pleasure to meet so many service users, carers and members of the
public interested in contributing to research. Everyone has a
contribution to make - you don't need to be 'academic' or even know
anything about research. The benefits of research are huge in terms
of understanding what works and developing new and better ways of
helping people affected by mental health problems.
"But without engagement, involvement and participation of service
users, carers and the public, research simply could not
Julian Walker, AWP's Director of R&D, added, "There are many
ways to get involved and time commitment varies hugely. You could
volunteer to take part in a clinical trial, which might mean trying
a new drug, or in a study simply involving a one-off questionnaire
or interview. Or you may want to contribute in other ways, for
example by taking part in a review panel or helping raise public
awareness of research."
Julian continued, "I am so grateful to all the presenters who gave
their time yesterday to impart their enthusiasm for
The event was co-hosted by Anne-Laure Donsky, a research partner
with AWP who entered research through her own experience of using
mental health services. She discussed the importance of critical
appraisal in understanding research findings. Anne-Laure also
reinforced the message that everyone has something to offer,
saying, "You don't need a degree to be involved in research."
Speakers from AWP's R&D team were joined by Mike Bell from
People in Health West of England, who explained the difference
between involvement, participation and engagement in research;
Hayley Dash, coordinator of the dementia health integration team
(HIT) for Bristol Health Partners; Rik Cheston of UWE; and Sarah
Sullivan, research fellow with the Collaboration and Leadership for
Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC).
Short films punctuated the programme in which service users, carers
and researchers described their first-hand experiences of research,
why it matters so much and how rewarding they find it.
Perhaps the most inspiring speaker of the day was Hilary Doxford,
who developed early onset Alzheimer's disease in her early 50s.
When she was diagnosed Hilary was told she had perhaps two years
before she would need to go into care. Now in her mid 50s, Hilary
is busier than ever - volunteering with the Alzheimer's Society's
research network and user involvement programme; the representative
for England on Alzheimer Europe's European working group for people
with dementia; sitting on the World Dementia Council; speaking at
the World Health Organisation in Geneva; taking part in a clinical
drugs trial; walking her dog and generally doing everything she can
to remain fit and well.
Hilary's articulate and passionate discussion about the critical
importance of dementia research and the enormous difference it can
make to the lives of patients, carers and families, brought home
the purpose of yesterday's event.
She said, "Involvement in research gives me hope, gives me a focus,
brings me comfort - now is the best time ever to be involved in
To find out how you can get involved in research, visit AWP's R&D webpages, call the
team on 0117 378 4266 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can register your interest in dementia research - with no
commitment - at www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk
- dementia studies are always looking for healthy volunteers as
well as those with a diagnosis of dementia, so the more people who
register, the better.
And for information about the Bristol Health Partners health
integration teams (HITs) visit www.bristolhealthpartners.org.uk