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Vanessa Bennett


Research Assistant

I am interested in listening to, and involving, young people to better understand how we can support their mental health through applied research. In particular, I would like to learn how their psychosocial and cognitive capabilities, motivations and behaviours intersect with their experiences across physical and digital environments to affect their help seeking and engagement with mental health and wellbeing support.

I aspire to involve and empower all young people to voice their perspectives in mental health research through co-development of innovative ‘real world’ methodology. Working with young people in Neurosec group and the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), we hope to include more young people with different experiences and background in meaningful research involvement to extend the benefits and impact beyond the research. Please read about our collaborative work and see our animation on the Oxford Health BRC Young People's Page.

I have worked as a Research Assistant at the University of Oxford/Oxford Health BRC since September 2019. I lead a group of about 30 members of the Young People’s Advisory Group (NeurOX YPAG; aged 14–19 years; read more on the BeGOOD website) who are keen to contribute to research in mental health and ethics and support their peers.

Read about the journeys and impact of young people from the NeurOX YPAG and researchers involved in our research for between 2 and 6 years in our Independent Storytelling Evaluation 

Between March 2020 and April 2022, YPAG members were involved in over 50 digital research meetings, training sessions, a reimbursed virtual work experience week and off-line research across the following projects: 

  • Covid Peer Support Study (collaboration with The McPin Foundation)
  • Childline on-line peer support message board study: NSPCC/Childline/Emerging Minds 
  • PERL Lab/Wellcome project on antidepressant use in young people (collaboration with The McPin Foundation)
  • Oxford Health BRC/NeurOX diversity project to explore widening of participation of young people in research and support other researchers to set up YPAGs
  • Nottingham University Seasonal Antidepressant Use study

To find out more about our involvement, read our report on the NIHR Oxford Health BRC PPI page 


NSPCC/Childline Message Board research (funded by Emerging Minds)

Read about the NSPCC/Childline Message Board Project in the NSPCC Briefing Report

Covid Peer Support Study

This collaboration between Neurosec, University College London, The McPin Foundation and Youth Era involved a randomised wait-list controlled feasibility study explored the impact of peer support training on young people’s wellbeing and feelings of connection with others. Read more information on the Neurosec website

BeGOOD Citizen's EIE projects

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. 


I previously worked as a Research Assistant in the Psychology Group at Oxford Brookes University as an IDS-2 Test Administrator, piloting of adjustments for the Detailed Assessment of Speed of Handwriting (DASH) and Movement Assessment Battery for Children-2 refinement of MAB-C2 and a departmental Open Science Development project.

For over 20 years, my earlier career as Account Director, Medical Writer and freelance consultant involved strategic medical education/communication planning and implementation for international pharmaceutical companies with experience across a range of therapy areas and clinical development stages. 


  • 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. 



Bennett, V., Gill, C., Miller, P., Clara Sayers, NeurOX YPAG., & Appleton, J. V. (2022, June 27). ‘In their own words’: a naturalistic co-produced study of young people’s experiences of emotional abuse and neglect expressed in anonymous, online peer-peer message forums.

Bennett, V, Gill, C. Miller, P and NeurOX Young People’s Advisory Group (October 2021) A community online: young people helping young people on the Childline message boards. London: NSPCC.

Pavarini G, Reardon T, Hollowell A, Bennett V, Lawrance E, Peer Support Young People’s Advisory Group,  Pinfold V, Singh I. Online peer support training to promote adolescents’ emotional support skills, mental health and agency during COVID-19: A pilot randomised controlled trial. doi: 10.1007/s00787-021-01933-0

Lyreskog DM, Pavarini G, Lorimer J, Jacobs E, Bennett V, Singh I. How to Build a Game for Empirical Bioethics Research: The Case of “Tracing Tomorrow". Health Expect 2021, Oct 29. doi: 10.1111/hex.13380.

Book chapter: 

Rosemary Musesengwa, Vanessa Bennett, Kiran Manku, Biggy Dziro, Sapfo Lignou, Kudzai Kanyere, and Peter Lewis. International perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on community engagement of young people for involvement in mental health research, p139. In: COVID-19 and Co-production in Health and Social Care Research, Policy, and Practice, Volume 2: Co-production Methods and Working Together at a Distance. Eds. Oli Williams, Doreen Tembo, Josephine Ocloo, Meerat Kaur, Gary Hickey, Michelle Farr, and Peter Beresford, Policy Press, Bristol, 2021

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