Intoducing our Latest Team Member

A belated welcome and blog post is due for Sam Treacy who has joined the study and is a researcher at the University of York, but is based full-time in the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s College London. Sam will be involved in conducting the follow-up interviews with both the service users and staff from within the agencies that have been involved in the Connecting People Study.

Sam’s background is in psychology, having worked predominantly with adults with mental health problems across community, inpatient and forensic settings. She has previously worked on research projects looking at substance misuse services across England, an RCT into the impact of Joint Crisis Plans, an international study looking at the stigma and discrimination experienced by mental health service users, and most recently a study looking at the outcomes and implementation of personal budgets for mental health service users in England.

We are sure that Sam will prove to be a great asset to the team and we look forward to working with her over the coming months.


International perspectives on Connecting People

Sierra Leone Flag

Sierra Leone Flag

Krio proverb meaning: one tree does not make a forest

Researcher Meredith Newlin has just returned from a two-week visit to Sierra Leone where she was evaluating the feasibility of adapting the Connecting People Intervention model to address the mental health treatment gap in low and middle-income countries we first spoke about here.

Funded by the Wellcome Trust and the University of York via the Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders (C2D2), this visit allowed Meredith and colleague  Dr Susie Whitwell from King’s Centre for Global Health, to visit Sierra Leone in July 2013 to explore how social interventions can help to meet the needs of people with mental health problems. During their visit, Meredith and Susie conducted interviews, focus groups and observations in a variety of mental health service settings and with a number of key stakeholders in the three largest cities, Freetown, Makeni, and Bo.

University of Makeni

University of Makeni


Like many post-conflict societies, Sierra Leone lacks capacity in its health and social care workforce. Where an estimated 13 per cent of the adult population suffers from a mental disorder and there exists only one trained psychiatrist for a population over 4 million, the lack of mental health training and supervision represents a significant barrier to addressing mental health needs.

Although training has begun for 21 psychiatric nurses, focus has been placed on the medical model, which is problematic in a country with poor access to medications. Upon graduating this autumn, the nurses will be based in district hospitals across the country with referral pathways reaching into the rural communities. Training in psychosocial approaches is greatly needed both at district and community levels in order to strengthen the care available to adults with mental health problems.

Psychiatric nurse training at Enabling Access to Mental Health (EAMH)

Psychiatric nurse training at Enabling Access to Mental Health (EAMH)

Meredith and Susie joined the psychiatric nurses for three days of training where they discussed principles of social capital and strategies they currently use to build relationships with patients, and spent time reviewing difficult cases. This gave us an opportunity to analyse the difference between actual symptoms of mental disorders and stereotypes associated with unusual behaviour in a context where people with mental health problems are highly stigmatised and vulnerable. Time spent with the nurses also enabled us to better understand the manifestations of illness from a sociocultural perspective. For example, the nurses explained they see young women suffering more from “frustration” (Krio for depression) due to the immense pressure placed on them to marry and have children, which may be over-diagnosed as psychosis given the prevalence of stigma in the community.

Susie discussing case studies with the psychiatric nurses

Susie discussing case studies with the psychiatric nurses

Feedback from stakeholders on the adaptation of an intervention model was positive, highlighting specific elements of social capital within the cultural context:

  • Building of trusting relationships between the health worker and service user
  • Deepening connections in the community, particularly with family members
  • Enhancing public awareness of mental health thereby minimising stigma
  • Traditional beliefs of mental illness impacting perceptions of recovery
Sierra Leone Psychiatric Hospital in Kissy

Sierra Leone Psychiatric Hospital in Kissy

From the data collected in this feasibility study, the research team will continue to collaborate with stakeholders in Sierra Leone to enhance the psychosocial skills of mental health workers through adaptation of the intervention model and development of a training programme.

Training Community Health Officers in Bo

Training Community Health Officers in Bo

Issue 4 Connecting People Newsletter

Here is issue 4 of the Connecting People newsletter. In this issue we have updates from the team as well as news about the International Issue 4Centre for Mental Health Social Research (ICMHSR). We also take a closer look at one of the agencies involved in the study, n-compass.

Please let us know what you think of the newsletter. Also, if you have ideas for things you want to see in Issue 5 please get in touch.

Many thanks

The Connecting People Study Team

Issue 3 Connecting People Newsletter

Here is issue 3 of the Connecting People newsletter. In this issue we have updates from the team as well as news of the development of a new training package encompassing video footage of the Connecting People Intervention in action. We also take a closer look at one of the agencies involved in the study.

Issue 3 Connecting People NewsletterPlease let us know what you think of the newsletter. Also, if you have ideas for things you want to see in Issue 4 please get in touch.

Many thanks

The Connecting People Study Team

The Reach of the Connecting People Study

This Connecting People Study blog site has now been running since June 2011. During this time the site has been visited 7,341 times.

The graphic below (click to enlarge) is a snapshot of visitor figures to our site over the last 30 days. It is interesting to note that whilst the majority of site traffic has come from within this country, there has also been a great deal of interest within Europe and internationally. Whilst our research is being conducted within England it is important to acknowledge that the matter of helping users of health and social care services to make new connections is not restricted to these shores.

A final statistic worthy of note is that our blog site received a record number of views this week with 231 views made on 25th February. A big thank you to all of our blog site regulars and newcomers for making this a record breaking week.

– The Connecting People Study Team

World Map Stats

Issue 2 Connecting People Newsletter

Here is Issue 2 of the Connecting People Newsletter. In this issue we are looking at the Connecting People Intervention in Practice, recruitment to the study and the process of interviewing participants.

Issue 2Please let us know what you think of the newsletter. Also, if you have ideas for things you want to see in Issue 3 please get in touch.

Many thanks

The Connecting People Study Team

International reach of the Connecting People Intervention

I am very fortunate to hold two roles with the Connecting People Intervention: one, as the full-time London based research worker on the pilot study, and two, as a part-time PhD student exploring the international scope of the intervention model.  To address the wide gap in global mental health implementation research and to promote capacity building of researchers in lower-and middle-income countries, I am working on expansion of the Connecting People Intervention to under-developed contexts that currently lack critical resources and skills.

Juggling two roles is not unfamiliar to me, for several years I have pursued my career in psychology research whilst also serving as a director for the small African development charity, SpanAfrica.   But until very recently these two passions for me—the drive to inform evidence-based research and to support meaningful change in underdeveloped countries—have not converged.  This is precisely the reason I jumped at the opportunity to explore the feasibility of taking the UK-based Connecting People Intervention to low- and middle-income countries (LAMICs).

I believe the Connecting People Intervention model has great potential to enhance health and wellbeing of vulnerable populations in LAMICs, especially with its focus on social participation.  I see the intervention as an opportunity to enhance social relationships between individuals whilst also developing the local community through existing services.  But most importantly the intervention model we have developed in the UK cannot simply be imposed on communities across the globe, instead my PhD will explore the ways that the CPI can be adapted to fit the local context.

With a background in health psychology and experience working in severely disadvantaged areas of Africa, I am often challenged by the varying approaches to addressing health inequalities through sustainable development.  We see blanket approaches where non-governmental organisations and international institutions will address seemingly similar issues exactly the same across vastly different countries or regions.

A story comes to mind of an NGO who visited a small rural town and asked male leaders what they needed most for their community. They responded, “a water well” because the women had to walk miles each day to access clean water.   The well was constructed but shortly after installation many people in the community fell ill and they determined it was the new well. What the male leaders didn’t understand was how important that daily walk was for the women.  It was their time for socialising, peace, and exercise.  One woman missed that time so much that she began contaminating the well water just to have that time back.  This is a story that reminds us the importance of truly addressing the needs of the entire community. Whilst the NGO had good intentions, and even worked with the local leaders, it wasn’t sustainable to the entire community.  Of course clean water is vital but perhaps the NGO could have consulted the entire community and in addition to providing clean water also considered opportunities for social participation.

Integral to conducting research in LAMICs is the need to establish strong relationships with key stakeholders to capture a realistic description of the challenges faced by vulnerable adults in the community.  Recently I have been collaborating with individuals from the King’s Centre for Global Health to explore the possibility of piloting the Connecting People Intervention in Sierra Leone.  The connections we are making now will enable us to reach individuals across health and social care systems in Sierra Leone to engage with community-based organisations, medical professionals, religious and community leaders, other mental health researchers, policy makers, and importantly, service users.  Connecting with these individuals in the research development stages, we seek to find the critical balance between addressing local needs in Sierra Leone with the innovative approaches that have been found effective in the UK.

We have developed a multinational research network that draws expertise and skills from diverse disciplines including social work and social policy, social and health psychology, medicine and nursing, global health policy and international development.  As a team we are scattered across the United Kingdom, Sierra Leone, and Australia with connections around the globe in these diverse fields of research and practice.

In order to assess the feasibility and acceptability of the CPI in Sierra Leone, we are arranging travel to Sierra Leone to engage with local stakeholders and gain a better understanding of the mental health services available as well as identify where significant gaps exist, forming the foundation for a needs assessment.  Drawing upon the extensive network of our international research team members in Sierra Leone we will use ethnographic methodology to gain a comprehensive description of the local context. This work will establish the potential for the model to benefit the outcomes for service users and inform the planning the protocol for a future pilot study.

Engage with the Connecting People Study in 2013

2012 has been a very busy year for the Connecting People Study team. We completed the ethnographic research and developed the Connecting People Intervention (CPI) model via focus groups and a Delphi Consultation. We recruited 18 agencies to pilot the intervention and have undertaken training in 15 so far. We are now in the midst of recruiting the participants for the evaluation of this pilot and undertaking baseline interviews. This process will continue throughout 2013.

In addition to undertaking the study in 2013, we will be involved in a series of events throughout the year to introduce the Connecting People Intervention to a wider constituency of practitioners, managers, commissioners and users of health and social care services. Although we don’t yet have data on its effectiveness, we would like to engage potential stakeholders in discussions about its implementation to help refine the intervention and broaden its impact.  These will include workshops, seminars and conference papers. The first three have already been scheduled.

In early February I am hosting a visit from some researchers from Rosklide University in Denmark. Making Research Count at York have organised a half-day seminar to allow interested people to hear more about their research. I will be talking about the Connecting People study and David Morris will be talking about the Connected Communities project led by the Royal Society for the Arts. The seminar, Community in Focus: Social Work Making Connections, will be held at King’s Manor in York from 9.30 am to 2.00 pm on Friday 8th February 2013. It is free to Making Research Count members, mental health social workers and Approved Mental Health Professionals in the Yorkshire and Humberside regions. Otherwise, places cost £75 each. Please click here to see the flyer for additional information and booking details.

A week later, the Connecting People Study team are hosting a workshop for practitioners and managers interested in implementing the Connecting People Intervention in their agencies on Friday 15th February from 10.00am to 1.00pm at The Strand campus of King’s College London. The Connecting People Intervention Study Fast Track Workshop will feature a presentation about the intervention model and some interactive training exercises we use in the intervention training. As we are inviting all the participating agencies to attend, there will be an opportunity to discuss the on-going piloting of the intervention with people who are using it in their practice. We are also providing a networking lunch to encourage participants to informally discuss their practice in the context of the intervention model. More information about how to book onto this free workshop is available on this website.

Later that day, I will be presenting a paper on the study in a Royal Holloway University of London Department of Social Work Research Seminar. This is likely to have a more academic focus than the other events as it will explore the more technical aspects of the study, including the construction of the intervention model and the methodology of the pilot study. However, limited free places are available for the seminar which will be held from 4.00pm to 6.00pm at Bedford Square in London on Friday 15th February. Please click here for more information.

I will also be giving presentations at conferences in Finland, Los Angeles and London on the Connecting People Study during 2013, in addition to many other local workshops and seminars. If you would like me or one of the study team to talk at your event about the intervention or the study (or both), please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

In the meantime, on behalf of the Connecting People Study team I would like to thank all those involved in the study and the piloting of the intervention for their hard work during 2012. We look forward to continuing our work with you in 2013.


“Pracademics” on blogging as a research dissemination strategy

Check out this post from Dr Martin Webber, written by Laura Clohessy, for London School of Economics, on the scope for blogging within academic research and practice.

Just this morning I received an email from a colleague with new impact factor figures for popular journals, and yet we ask ourselves, are academic journals the most impactful way to reach individuals who will implement the findings of research?  The LSE article discusses the impact of blogging and how it serves as a platform to document the progress of a study.

We’re curious, what do you think about blogging as a strategy to disseminate research?

Fast Track Workshop – 15th February 2013


On Friday, February 15th 2013 (10am – 1pm) the Connecting People Team will be hosting a Fast Track Workshop at King’s College London. The event will act as an introduction to the Connecting People Intervention. There will be interactive training activities to engage in and a panel discussion with directors and workers from a range of agencies.

The event is free and will include a networking lunch.

Please see the event invitation here.  If you are interested in attending or would like more information please contact Meredith Newlin at

Fast Track Workshop