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The Mental Health and Well-being needs of Looked After and Displaced Children in South East England

Post-graduate Research

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Dr R DeVisser , Dr Priya Paudyal , Dr Ruth Sellers No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a 3-year PhD studentship to join our Public Health and Primary Care Department at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School. This studentship is funded by the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration, Kent Surrey and Sussex (ARC, KSS).

Looked After Children (LAC) often experience substantial life challenges that affect their mental health and wellbeing. Almost half of children and young people in care meet diagnostic criteria for a psychiatric disorder, compared to one in 10 in non-looked after children1,2. Unaccompanied migrant children in particular face extra complexities due to their immigration status, which may be compounded by the social, cultural, and linguistic differences in the new setting3. This PhD aims to increase understanding of the mental health and wellbeing needs and experiences of Looked After Children to identify good practice and to identity areas for improvement and suggestions for improvements.

This PhD studentship will provide the opportunity for the student to enhance their knowledge in the subject area as well as develop their methodological skills in quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods public health research as well as evidence synthesis. This will be achieved through working with supervisors to develop a research programme that may include a systematic review, secondary analysis of existing quantitative data, collection and analysis of novel qualitative data, and cross-study synthesis.
Of key importance to all aspects of the research programme will be engagement with LAC, carers, health and social care professionals and local authorities to co-design and co-produce outputs and potential interventions. This process encourages active engagement and partnership work, and is valuable for gaining a deeper understanding of the issues faced by the LAC and related parties.

The project will be supervised by Dr Richard De Visser, Dr Priya Paudyal and Dr Ruth Sellers. Dr Visser has studied a range of topics across health and social psychology and has expertise in and expertise in qualitative, quantitative, intervention, and mixed-methods designs. Dr Paudyal has research expertise in migration and marginalised communities, and has methodological expertise in co-production and evidence synthesis. Dr Sellers has expertise in child development, with research focusing on risk and resilience-based processes underlying youth mental health. Dr Sellers also has expertise in research design, and advanced quantitative methods.

Funding Notes

Applicants for this 3-year NIHR ARC KSS-funded PhD starting January 2021 should possess or expect to be awarded a minimum of a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) in Psychology, Public Health, Social Science or relevant subject, and related Masters degree. Home fees will be paid for UK/EU citizens; non-UK/EU citizens will be liable for the difference in fees. Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr DeVisser ([Email Address Removed]), Dr Paudyal ([Email Address Removed]) or Dr Sellers ([Email Address Removed]).

To apply, please visit University of Brighton website (https://evsipr.brighton.ac.uk/urd/sits.urd/run/siw_ipp_lgn.login?process=siw_ipp_app_crs). Please contact the BSMS Doctoral and Research Officer ([Email Address Removed]) if any queries.


1.House of Commons Education Committee (2016). Mental health and well-being of looked-after children (HC481). London: House of Commons. Available at: publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmeduc/481/481.pdf

2. Luke, N., Sinclair, I., Woolgar, M. & Sebba, J. (2014) What works in preventing and treating poor mental health in looked after children? London: NSPCC/Oxford: Rees Centre.

3. Fazel, M., Reed, R.V., Panter-Brick, C. & Stein, A. (2011). Mental health of displaced and refugee children resettled in high-income countries: risk and protective factors. Lancet, 379, 266-282. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60051-2
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