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Improving Mental Health Literacy: Exploring and understanding how young adult carers of seriously ill relatives from ethnically diverse backgrounds recognise and seek support for their own mental and emotional-wellbeing


   Department of Health Sciences

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  Prof A Smith, Dr Zoebia Islam  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Evidence tells us that supporting a family member with a terminal illness is difficult and can have immediate and long-lasting impact on family carers including mental and emotional distress such as, experiencing anxiety and lead to depression. For young carers the caring responsibility can also impact financially and on academic and career progression. However, carers may find it difficult to understand mental health and emotional-wellbeing information. This is often referred to as ‘mental health literacy’ and, is defined as understanding how to obtain and maintain positive mental health; understanding mental health problems and their treatments; decreasing stigma related to mental health problems; and, enhancing help-seeking efficacy1.  There is little research on how carers of those with a serious illness recognise, or seek support for their own mental and emotional-wellbeing, and how to improve mental health literacy. Yet improved mental health literacy may reduce the burden on health and social care services and also reduce health inequalities. 

Young carers from ethnically diverse (ED) communities have an increased risk of developing poor wellbeing and mental health problems2. However, they may not access support because they are often unaware that such support exists2,3. Generally, young carers struggle and may be unidentified and unsupported with their caring responsibilities but the impact is often worse for ED young carers who are particularly vulnerable and often overlooked by the agencies including schools, local authorities and health services4. 

Although young carers are 1.5 times more likely to be from ED communities, little research has been conducted with this population and we need to understand the particular strains and pressures on these young carers who may have additional roles in supporting family members by acting as interpreter, advocate and navigator of health and care services. 

This fully funded PhD project will focus on YACs from ED communities to consider the research questions: 

What impact does caring for a seriously ill relative have on the mental and emotional-wellbeing of young adult carers?

How do young adult carers of seriously ill relatives recognise and care for their own mental and emotional-wellbeing?

How can we improve the mental health literacy of young adult carers?

This is a mixed methods project. The doctoral student will carry out the following within the 3 year time frame: 

Year 1

Narrative review of existing literature regarding the mental health literacy of YACs from ED backgrounds including the impact of caring on carers mental and emotional well-being and the interventions used to improve the mental health literacy of YACs.

Write- up of findings for publication.

Explore potential methods used to recruit and conduct research with YACs from ED backgrounds.

Year 2

Recruitment of YACs through a number of formal and informal networks, seeking participants with a diversity of experiences. 

Data collection which will include mixed qualitative and quantitative methods such as: one to one interview and focus groups (either face to face, by phone or videocall), Q sort methods and ecomaps may also be explored along with validated questionnaires (Quality of life questionnaires) to evaluate aspects of YACs mental health and their coping strategies. 

Data analysis –dependant on methods of data collection, this would include thematic analysis using a grounded theory approach. 

Initial development of evidence- to address the research questions and develop prototype intervention. 

Write- up of findings for publication. 

Year 3

Further development of prototype intervention.

Thesis write-up and publications as highlighted above. 

The work will be informed by a PPIE group and draw on additional expertise of the Palliative Care and Frailty Research Group and Mental Health, Ageing, Public Health and Primary Care (MAPP) Research Group.

Entry Requirements

Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor Degree 2:1 or better in a relevant subject.  Masters in a relevant subject is required 

The University of Leicester English language requirements apply

To apply

Please refer to the application advice and link to our online application at https://le.ac.uk/study/research-degrees/funded-opportunities/hs-imhl-smith


Funding Notes

Funding available to UK students only.
University full time PhD Registration Fees at UK rates for 3 years.
Annual stipend at standard RCUK rates based on £16,062 p/a for a 2022/23 start.
Research Training Support Grant of £1,300 p/a for 3 years.

References

Kutcher, S., Wei, Y., & Coniglio, C. (2016). Mental health literacy: Past, present and future. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 61(3), 154-158.
Children's Society (2018) Young Carers of Black and Minority Ethnic families. The Children Society, London
Independent Mental Health Taskforce to the NHS in England (2016) The five year forward view for mental health
The Children Society (2013) Hidden from view: The experiences of young carers in England. The Children Society
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