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Vanessa Bennett


Research Assistant

My main interests are researching the psychosocial and cognitive impact of early interventions on development of children and young people. My aspiration is to empower children and young people to have a voice in research aimed at improving their mental health and wellbeing.

I am currently working on an Emerging Minds collaborative cross sector placement between the NSPCC/Childline and NEUROSEC Group. This short-term project guided by principles of co-production involves 10 young researchers from the NeurOX YPAG to characterise the ‘real world voices’ and peer-interactions of young people with experience of emotional/psychological maltreatment who access the Childline peer-support online message boards. The meaningful involvement of young people in the research will offer a nuanced perspective to help interpret the language and help-seeking needs of their peers with such adverse experiences and inform the further development of Childline online services.

Within NEUROSEC, I lead a group of about 30 YPAG members (aged 14–18 years) who are keen to contribute to research in mental health and ethics and support their peers (

Since March 2020, YPAG activities moved on-line and aimed to support young people’s mental health and wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic. I have contributed to the Covid Peer Support Study – a collaboration between Neurosec, University College London, The McPin Foundation and Youth Era. This randomised wait-list controlled feasibility study explored the impact of peer support training on young people’s wellbeing and feelings of connection with others.

On behalf of the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre, I have also been working with the NeurOX YPAG to explore more inclusive and meaningful involvement of young people in mental health research using digital approaches. Between March and October 2020, YPAG members have been involved in over 15 digital research meetings, and a Virtual Work Experience week. I have also supported a collaborative Digital YPAG (together with The McPin Foundation) on a project run by the PERL Group in the Department of Psychiatry involving three workshops with young people with lived experience of anxiety, depression and antidepressants.  

The following resources share the experiences of young people and researchers to encourage and widen meaningful involvement of young people in research:

Other projects supported:

  • BeGood Citizen's: EIE projects working with the NeurOX Young People’s Advisory Group (YPAG) for the past year.
  • NEUROSEC Team and the YPAG on the ‘Tracing Tomorrow’ study to explore young people’s perspectives on mental help seeking and data privacy using a narrative digital game approaches. 

Previous experience/academic background:

  • Research Assistant and Test Administrator in the Developmental Psychology group at Oxford Brookes University on a standardisation project for Intelligence and Development Scales (IDS-2) and projects involving assessments of handwriting and movement in children and young people.
  • 20 years medical writing and account direction in healthcare communications.
  • MSc in Psychology from Oxford Brookes University, with my thesis investigating the effects of cognitive load and anxiety on prospective memory in adolescents.
  • MSc in Veterinary Parasitology from The University of Liverpool.
  • BSc in Animal Biology from The University of Birmingham. 



Poster: Bennett V, Hinkley L, Morys-Carter W, MacLean M. Cognitive strategies while prospective remembering in mid-late adolescence. Poster presented at the British Psychological Society Joint Cognitive and Developmental Psychology Section Annual Meeting 2019, 2–4th September 2019, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, UK.

Delegate poster prize winner.

Invited extended abstract: Bennett V, Hinkley L, Morys-Carter W, MacLean M. Cognitive strategies while prospective remembering in mid-late adolescence. The Cognitive Psychology Bulletin. Spring 2020. The British Psychological Society, Leicester. ISSN: 2397-2653