09 July 2015

Research for all

Everyone can contribute to mental health research - and it's rewarding, too!
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 happen."
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 research."
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 dementia research."
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 awp.research@nhs.net
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

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