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Celebrities in #OxfordMentalHealth © Celebrities that took part in #OxfordMentalHealth online conversation series

With public need at an all-time high for mental health awareness and support, the department has worked on a number of public engagement with research activities – most recently the Understanding Mental Health online conversation series, which features leading mental health researchers and well-known celebrities.

The series explores the important areas of mental health research, where science and investigation is at the forefront of new developments in understanding, treating and preventing mental illness. It aims to tackle mental health topics of great societal importance, presenting what we know from existing research and highlighting the most urgent research priorities. The films are located on the Department of Psychiatry YouTube Channel with information at #OxfordMentalHealth on Twitter.

The NEUROSEC (Neuroscience, Ethics and Society) group launched Tracing Tomorrow, a bioethics game, which investigates young people’s values and preferences in the context of digital phenotyping for mental health in schools. The game has been played by more than 20,000 people since its launch in January 2020. The data are currently being analysed and the game is being used in follow-up studies on moral reasoning in young people and research methodology.

A mix of animated advertisement, online radio discussions and reviews, and social media influencers was used to communicate about the Tracing Tomorrow game with a combined total reach of almost 1 million (990,000).

A series delving into the work of Robert Burton who published The Anatomy of Melancholy in 1621, was aired on BBC Radio 4 this year. Head of Department John Geddes was the series consultant and spoke in several episodes. The series looked into how far we have come and what can be learnt 400 years on from the original publication, at a time when clinical depression is stated to be the leading cause of global disability.

As part of a Wellcome Public Engagement Grant, and running in parallel to a larger Wellcome-funded research programme, the My Resilience in Adolescence (MYRIAD) project research team designed a range of public engagement activities. These activities included the Teenage Brain Workshop aimed at young people to inspire them to learn more about the science of the brain. The team took the workshop into schools to introduce young people to the research tools used by scientists to investigate changes in the brain during the teenage years and their link to emotional and behavioural regulation. More than 800 students across the UK attended workshops (before COVID-19) and the resources have now been made available to young people, teachers and families. These resources also include the MYRIAD Young People’s Analysis of Data (MYPAD), which was designed to help young people learn about research methods and provide an opportunity to analyse real data. 

Although the pandemic prevented much of the face-to-face engagement work members of the department had planned, a number of virtual meetings and events have taken place. A series of mindfulness sessions and podcasts facilitated by Professor Willem Kuyken, Director of the University of Oxford Mindfulness Centre, was developed and made freely available, designed to offer support during a time of crisis.