The Effects of National Crises on Mental Health:
Studying the history of emotion using a stress-response paradigm
University of Sheffield students completing their second year of undergraduate study are invited to apply to this SURE scheme. Students in History, Medicine, and Sociology are especially encouraged to apply, but students from all disciplines will be considered
About the scheme:
SURE offers The University of Sheffield’s undergraduate students an opportunity to become directly involved in the research activity of the University, take part in “real life” research projects in subject areas that are of special interest, and experience what it’s like to work in partnership with academic staff or collaboratively in a research group.
Prof. Scott Weich (Chair of Mental Health) and Dr Julie V. Gottlieb (Reader in History)
Students will be awarded a bursary of £1,080 for a six-week project. This will be paid in two lots; 70% in week one, and 30% on completion of the project. A modest expense allowance is also available for research trips and subscriptions to required online resources.
Projects begin on 12/6/2017, and end on 21/7/2017
The expectation is that the student will be based in Sheffield or be available to attend regular supervision meetings in Sheffield over the 6-week period of the project.
Completion of a written report by 25 August, and a dissemination piece (i.e. poster) by 24 November (this will be presented at the SURE showcase in February 2018)
University of Sheffield students completing their second year of undergraduate study are eligible to apply. Students in History, Medicine, and Sociology are especially encouraged to apply but students from all disciplines will be considered.
Please send an expression of interest in the form of a statement of 250-400 words outlining any relevant experience and explaining what you would like to contribute to the project to both firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com .
Provide us with you contact details, your degree programme, and confirm that you will be available in June and July to attend supervisions in Sheffield and carry out the research. For further information, you are welcome to attend Dr Gottlieb’s office hours Tuesdays 10.30-11.30 and Thursdays 12-1 in the Jessop West Building, room 3.04.
Deadline: 5 May, 2017
Understanding the effects of historic national or global crises on mental health, and how these effects are manifest, mediated, ameliorated and exacerbated, has great contemporary relevance. As well as contributing to the study of the history of emotion (and developing new methodologies for this), this work will inform contemporary public health planning and estimates of need for mental health services by modelling historical impacts of specific types of threat on rates of mental disorder. The research is based on an existing collaboration between the supervisors, Prof. Weich and Dr Gottlieb, an academic psychiatrist and a historian. Students will be supervised in exploring the emotional and behavioural responses to well characterised, historic social stressors, namely large-scale, sudden or catastrophic social, economic or political crises.
There are four bursary places available to work under supervision on these two linked projects within a common theoretical and empirical framework. Both studies will contribute to the development, testing and refining of theories using a framework based on validated biological human stress-response models. We propose to study two national crises: one occurring in the 20th century (the Munich Crisis of 1938) and one in the 21st century (specifically the 2008 global financial crisis or the migrant crisis since 2015). Two students will be directed to work on each theme, under supervision. The strength of this approach lies in the complimentary nature of the data underpinning the two case studies and opportunity for cross-fertilisation.
The research will comprise 5 distinct stages, plus a final stage devoted to project dissemination:
Stage 1: We will undertake preliminary theorising, in which we will adapt biological (individual) stress-response models and the key constructs of threat (acute versus chronic threat), loss and defeat to social settings in which distinct groups (e.g. women, young people, those of minority ethnicity etc.) may be discerned. We will use this stage to consider how different types of social stress (including physical threats, financial or economic loss and threats to future aspirations) and personal or group vulnerabilities are characterised within a stress-diathesis paradigm. We will use these theories to generate testable hypotheses relating to the crises to be studied.
Stage 2: We will identify the two crises to be studied (one occurring in the 20th century and one in the 21st century) and identify and characterise the groups of interest, including (where appropriate) persecuted and persecutors, aggressor and victims, victors and those defeated or subjugated. We will develop our data searching, collection, extraction and analysis strategies in stage 2.
Stage 3: We will identify the key sources to be used, including (where available) scientific publications, journals, diaries, newspapers and other media, and official statistics, and indicate how each of these will be used to characterise the nature of the threat and to evaluate effects. We will also develop data extraction forms to ensure that the data are collected systematically.
Stage 4: Will collect and analyse data on the crises under review, including data from historical sources and, where available, official statistics and person-level data (e.g. social or health surveys and coroners records to identify suicides).
Stage 5: We will review, update and augment the theories developed in stage 1, for instance to reflect the ways in which threat, loss and defeat manifest their emotional and behavioural effects, and in whom, as well as the ways in which these effects are modified by circumstances and/or personal resilience or vulnerability.
The proposed research will augment a Wellcome Trust Seed Award awarded to Dr Gottlieb which is due to begin in September 2017 (for 12 months), and on which Prof Weich is a co-investigator. The Wellcome Award on “Suicide, Society and Crisis” seeks to answers to the following questions: What is the relationship between suicide and world crises? Does the suicide rate increase during periods of acute political, economic and international crisis? How do clinicians and coroners, academics and artists, politicians and pundits, the media, and suicides themselves diagnose the causal link between mental illness, personal desperation and national crisis? Prof Weich leads the Mental Health Research Unit at ScHARR, which has a strong culture of postgraduate teaching. In addition to being an NHS Consultant Psychiatrist and teacher (of medical students, postgraduate doctors in training and postgraduate MSc and PhD research students). He has a track record of public mental health research, and has published extensively on the social, economic and spatial determinants of the most common mental disorders, anxiety and depression, at the population-level. He has particular expertise in the use of routine datasets to estimates rates of mental disorder in populations.