Dr Andrew Mayers

Mental health research

This page examines current and completed research that I have been involved with, focusing on mental health. The current work is being undertaken with my research team (mostly psychology students) and with local and national charities, NHS organisations, health professionals, and local nature groups.

Current work

Mental health and emergency services

The Police

We explored two projects with police officers. Both studies were undertaken with the co-operation and support from Dorset Police. The first examined their perceptions of how well-equipped they feel they are to deal with incidents where someone has a mental health problem. Do the officers need more education? Are they able to recognise symptoms, especially risk factors for suicide? Are they aware of where someone with a mental health problem could be taken (as opposed to detention in police cells)? We aim to present the data from that study soon.

In some cases police officers may have the benefit locally of a mental health triage. I am working with Dorset Police, Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust, and the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner on a local project.

In the second study, we explored what support police officers get to protect their own mental health. The Police are often first-responders to traumatic incidents. Many officers encounter events that most of us simply would never wish to. Sometimes, those incidents must have an impact on the officer. We asked about support networks and training. We aim to present the data from that study soon.

Paramedics and other ambulance personnel

We have been working on two projects involving paramedics and other ambulance staff (including student paramedics at Bournemouth University). Both projects were undertaken with support with The College of Paramedics and a senior paramedic at Bournemouth University. In the first study, we explored what help ambulance staff get to support their own mental health. Similar to police officers, ambulance staff are frequently first-responders to distressing incidents. Although ambulance staff frequently deal with death, sometimes the impact of that can be greater than at other times. We wanted to know what factors might pose a risk factors to developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We also asked about what training staff had to help with such incidents.

In the second study, we explored ambulance staff (and student) perceptions of how confident they feel dealing with incidents where someone at the call appears to have a mental health problem. This could be secondary to physical symptoms which prompted the call. We wanted to know what training and support ambulance staff get to deal with that.

Fire Service

We are now just starting similar work to the above with fire officers.

Health professionals' expertise in mental health

We undertook two studies with GPs: one focusing on general mental health, while the other study examined factors relating to perinatal mental health. In the first study, we explored  three key factors: how much mental health training GPs receive (and whether that's enough); their views of the current mental health system; and how they manage their own psychological well-being, including help-seeking behaviours. We aim to present the data from that study soon.

In the second study, we investigated what training GPs receive to understand and support perinatal mental health. You can read about that work, along with similar studies focusing on other health professionals (such as midwives and health visitors) on the perinatal mental health research page.

Stress factors and resilience of mental health staff

This new research was undertaken by one of my students (Lucy Harvey), under my supervision. In this work, we worked with 5 mental health NHS trusts (Dorset Healthcare, Surrey and Borders Partnership, Kent and Medway, Solent NHS, and Southern Health) to examine stress  among mental health staff, specifically to investigate whether self-compassion acts as a moderator within the relationship between stress and its negative effects. The work is now complete and we are looking at reporting this through publication.

Future work

Mental health and nature

Evidence is growing that open spaces, green environments, and coastal locations can provide valuable resources for mental health. We should avoid thinking that all mental health means mental illness. We all have 'mental health' and we can do a great deal to protect that. Healthy eating, exercise and good sleep can contribute to that. In some cases, therapeutic interventions are being designed to help kick-start better mental health. There are growing cases of health professionals being able to prescribe and signpost to such facilitates. Anecdotally, we hear good things about the benefit of mental health and nature, but we need more evidence to support that. I am working with local partners to develop programmes, support existing ones, and evaluate the benefits. We are very fortunate to live and work in the beautiful county of Dorset, with it's charming rural locations and coastline. Using my roles at Bournemouth University, Dorset Mind and Dorset HealthCare, I am working with some great local partners, including Dorset Wildlife Trust, Natural Choices and Bournemouth Parks Foundation. I will update with progress here soon.

Completed (and published) work

Sleep and mental health

Check the sleep research page for more information on the work that I undertook a few years ago.