A day in the life of Joy Rooney, Peer Support Worker

blogI work for two days a week as an intentional peer support worker (PSW, 07:00 – 15:00, Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust) in a recovery unit offering:  facilitated training group work, along with spending time with people on a one to one basis (1:1s), practical and emotional support.  People with longer term stays can develop their interests in, and benefit from the hearing voices group, bite size psychology group, peer group using the PeerZone free materials (from Mary O’Hagan in New Zealand), and the early warning signs course (written by Prof Jo Smith and Dr Tom Barker).  There’s also the gardening project which I initiated – growing vegetables and flowers in dedicated beds.  Other types of groups are run by the second intentional PSW who works on the other three days.

The day starts with the nursing handover, moves on to preparation for the days’ groups and 1:1s and then really gets going with 1:1s recovery orientated conversations with people, practical and emotional support.  The groups of up to nine people run at 11:00 and 14:00 for up to 45 minutes and I write case notes and make diary entries after the groups and 1:1 conversations.  It’s a hectic two days a week and reflection, refinement and lesson planning are taken home but not dwelt overly on.  There is a group meeting/ supervision with the other seven peer support workers across the county for two hours once a month and line management supervision from the ward manager too.

I really enjoy relating little chunks of my relevant experiences of poor mental health and how I coped with being in hospital in an empathetic way to people when I hear their stories. I know that holding hope for them to recover will see them improve and be discharged to live a self-determined life away from the hospital ward with the tools they need to prevent re-admission or at least reduce its longevity.

Within Worcestershire PSWs have typically worked exclusively with people with mental distress, but I have also met families and friends during the evening so that they can understand the ethos of recovery from its beginnings. By doing so I am able to help and support them in applying recovery principles when visiting and living with their loved ones.

The peer support I offer is unique because it flows from my personal experience of 38 years in secondary mental health services (now discharged), all its ups and down across four acute inpatient wards including three of the old asylums around England with multiple admissions as a ‘revolving door patient’. These chunks of relevant personal experience come from more than half a lifetime of mental distress. I am seen as a role model, someone that’s been there and got the t-shirt. Not many other mental health practitioners have that sort of experience “from the other side” – to know what it feels like to recover a life, trying to cope alone with lots of systems.

Although I have worked in many fields (notably as an agricultural research scientist for 16 years) in a number of roles and organisations, none has matched what I feel I am giving back to others with mental health difficulties as a PSW. I feel it gives me a sense of achievement when these people have ‘light bulb’ moments around the recovery principles and what it means to them. It especially gives me great joy when they are discharged.

Along with my recent academic successes both within the Trust and the University of Worcester in the Institute of Health and Society as an associate lecturer and research stemming from the IMPACT group of service users and carers (SUAC), I feel I am making a contribution to the knowledge base around peer support and SUAC, student and staff perceptions of SUAC involvement in higher education through peer reviewed publications. I am also a student again, taking a part-time Diploma in Education and Training to benefit my practice around teaching recovery in group sessions and teaching research, recovery and mental health, advocacy and long term conditions within the University of Worcester.

Being an intentional peer support worker is really important to my own wellbeing.

Dr Joy M Rooney is a project leader and peer support worker with Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust and an associate lecturer and researcher at the University of Worcester. Contact: joy.rooney@nhs.net or j.rooney@worc.ac.uk


Recent Publications/ conferences:

Rooney, J. M., Osborne, N. and Unwin, P. F. (2015). “The impact of IMPACT – reflections on the first seven years of a service user and carer (SUAC) group at the University of Worcester, UK”. Conference paper: Where’s The Patient’s Voice in Health Professional Education – 10 years on, 13/11/2015, Vancouver, Canada.

Rooney, J. M., Miles, N., and Barker, T. (2016a). “Patients’ Views: Peer Support Worker on Inpatient Wards.” Mental Health and Social Inclusion 20(3) 160-166. doi 10.1108/MHSI-02-2016-0007.

Rooney, J. M. and Unwin, P. (2016b). “Transformative or Tokenistic – Can involving service users and carers in the training of health and social care professionals promote social justice?” Social Justice Conference 26/06/2016 University of Worcester.

Rooney, J. M., Unwin, P. F. and Osborne, N. D. (2016c). “Gaining by Giving? Peer Research into Service User and Carer perceptions of Inclusivity in Higher Education.” Social Work Education. 35(8) 945-959. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2016.1227314

Rooney, J. M. (2017). “HQUIP Case Study. Patients value peer support worker in their recovery. ” http://www.hqip.org.uk/resources/case-study-patients-value-peer-support-worker-in-their-recovery/

Unwin, P., Rooney, J. M. and Cole, C. (2017, in press). “An evaluation of the impact of service user and carer involvement on students’ classroom learning in higher education.” Journal of Further and Higher Education. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0309877X.2017.1281886.

Unwin, P., Rooney, J. M., Osborne, N., and Cole, C. (201x, accepted). “Are perceptions of disability changed by the involvement of service users and carers in the qualifying training of health and social work professionals?” Disability and Society.



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New book deal for IMH staff! Positive psychotherapy for psychosis

We are pleased to announce the publication of a new book called Positive Psychotherapy for Psychosis, by Mike Slade, Tamsin Brownell, Tayyab Rashid and Beate Schrank. The book describes a new psychological intervention, which for the first time applies emerging research from the field of positive psychology specifically to psychosis. It is a guide and manual for clinicians, divided into two sections: theory and intervention manual. The intervention is based on methodologically rigorous research and case studies, and gives detailed aims and instructions for clinicians and therapists. The structured, step-by-step manual, for use with clients, includes downloadable handouts, session materials, activities, guides and therapist tips. The book also contains guidance on adapting the approach for use in individual treatments, and on providing part of the intervention, either as individual sessions or by integrating Positive Psychotherapy for Psychosis sessions into other treatments.

Positive Psychotherapy for Psychosis will be of interest to mental health clinicians working with people with psychosis, as well as clinical and counselling psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health nurses, psychotherapists, social workers, occupational therapists, support workers and peer support specialists. The aim is for the manual to be a practical, positive and innovative resource for mental health professionals, providing all the material needed to deliver this evidence-based approach that is designed to improve wellbeing and reduce symptoms experienced by people living with psychosis.

Mike Slade commented “there is a growing interest within society about positive psychology and wellbeing approaches such as mindfulness, character strengths, forgiveness and gratitude. In developing this intervention we started with the assumption that what people living with psychosis need in order to get on with their life is in many, but not all, ways similar to what everyone else needs to live well. So we looked at the small ways in which positive psychology approaches need to be modified for people who experience psychosis, and then evaluated and further refined these approaches using randomised controlled trial and qualitative methodologies. The hope is that this type of intervention – based on research and focused on supporting people with psychosis to ‘live well’ rather than having their problems fixed – is part of a broader movement towards citizenship for people living with psychosis.

The book has been endorsed by international leaders. Prof Bob Drake from Dartmouth Medical School said “This book should become required reading for all of us who treat people with serious mental illness” and A/Prof Lindsay Oades from the Centre for Positive Psychology at University of Melbourne said “The Positive Psychotherapy for Psychosis intervention represents state-of-the-art psychological practice”.


IMH blog readers can get an exclusive 20% off! Just follow the link to the publishers website and use the discount code  IRK71

More information about the development and evaluation of the intervention is at: http://www.researchintorecovery.com/WELLFOCUS



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Professor Mike Slade introduces Refocus on Recovery 2017

Refocus on Recovery 2017 is an exciting international scientific conference which is coming to the Institute of Mental Health. It is the largest regular scientific conference on recovery in the world, and will take place on 18-20 September 2017. This is the first time the conference has been held outside London, and we know Nottingham will do us proud!

The conference is all about recovery for people with mental health problems, and is presenting world-leading research about how people can live well with illness. It is being organised by the Institute of Mental Health, School of Health Sciences (University of Nottingham), Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, ImROC, Making Waves and Mental Health Foundation.

Keynote speakers come from the UK (Steve Gillard, Isabella Goldie, Jayasree Kalathil, Anu Singh, Mike Slade) as well as from India (Manoj Kumar), Canada (Kwame McKenzie), Germany (Jasna Russo) and Norway (Mark Hopfenbeck). We will also hear from Jenny Edwards (Chief Executive, Mental Health Foundation) and Ruth Hawkins (Chief Executive, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust).

It promises a great opportunity for learning and networking. For the three previous Recovery conferences, around 500 people came from 25 countries.

There is a lively social programme, as well as the Gala Dinner, we have exciting creative opportunities such as the boomwhacker percussion energiser event, a ‘Story Shop’ offering a range of stories from people with lived experience and more….

The conference has four themes:

Theme 1: Recovery for different groups: The meaning of, and support for, recovery in long-term conditions (physical and mental). Recovery in marginalised groups, e.g. culturally-sensitive services. Understanding and supporting recovery in mental health systems, e.g. Open Dialogue, REFOCUS, Individual Placement and Support. Organisational and individual influences on Peer Support Workers, including the meaning of ‘peer’.

Theme 2: Re-situating recovery: Engaging with culture and community to make recovery a reality. Mainstreaming recovery, and links with other community initiatives, e.g. dementia-friendly communities. The role of family and supporters – what is a family in recovery? Improving access, e.g. digital interventions. Recovery Colleges as a bridge between mental health system and community. Insights from Mad Studies about recovery.

Theme 3: Prevention of mental ill-health: Supporting the development of resilience in individuals and communities. Creating inclusive communities. Inter-sectoral understandings of stigma and discrimination. National and local anti-stigma campaigns. Supporting self-management, including peer-led approaches. The role of inter-dependence. The impact of language and embedded assumptions. Developing new narratives, e.g. Mad lit, Photovoice.

Theme 4: Allocating resources: How money is spent, and with what effect. Service models and structures which foster or hinder recovery. Co-production and co-development approaches. The role of volunteers. Providing services in resource-poor settings. The contribution of health and social policy to recovery. The impact of legislation and commissioning arrangements.

Get on board!

  • Find out more about the expert workshops and the conference at com/ror2017
  • Submit an abstract (don’t miss the deadline: 28 February 2017).
  • Come along – register now, with a limited number of reduced rates for ‘early bird’ registrations.
  • Spread the word! This is such a great opportunity we don’t want to keep it to ourselves. Please feel free to send a link to this blog or the website to colleagues who may be interested.
  • Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag (#RonR2017).

We hope to see you there.

Mike Slade is Professor of Mental Health Recovery and Social Inclusion at the University of Nottingham, based in the School of Health Sciences in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, and working at the Institute of Mental Health.


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IMH annual research day: 9th May, 2017. Call for papers

The Institute of Mental Health (IMH) will be hosting its Annual Research Day to highlight the work of the Institute’s doctoral candidates, Managed Innovation Networks (MINs), and early-career researchers (including research assistants, research fellows, and research-active clinicians and service users).

There will be prizes for best oral presentation and best poster. The event is being promoted to all IMH members and we anticipate a good selection of speakers presenting and a good range of people in the audience — both local and national health researchers and practitioners plus IMH members. The event will be chaired by Professor Peter Bartlett and Dr Jenelle Clarke. There will also be plenary sessions from inspiring and established experts.

This Annual Research Day focuses intentionally on those at the beginning of their research careers, and represents a welcoming and career-developing forum for researchers (it is wonderful for the CV and excellent presentation practice in a friendly setting).

We expect the format to resemble that of a conference with 20 minute oral presentations per paper with 10 minutes for questions from the floor.

Please submit a title and 250 word abstract to:
Dr Jenelle Clarke (jenelle.clarke@nottingham.ac.uk)
By Monday 3rd April 2017


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Alessandro Bosco: Alzheimer Europe conference 2016


Can we create a dementia-friendly society? This was the question around which people with dementia, carers, professionals and academic researchers gathered during the 26th Alzheimer Europe conference in Copenhagen.

A large representation from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) attended the event to promote the innovative (and diverse) research that the Institute is nationally and internationally renowned for and contribute with their ideas and expertise to the scientific discourse around dementia. All the attendees had unique networking opportunities with colleagues from all over the world and many of us presented their work through posters and oral presentations. Professor Martin Orrell, director of the IMH and Head of the division of Psychiatry and Applied Psychology, was present to promote the work of the institute and to create new European partnerships in dementia research.

Professor Tom Dening, head of the IMH Centre for Dementia, gave an oral presentation during the INTERDEM session entitled, ‘Where’s the happiness in dementia?’, which led to a lively discussion about the emotional experiences of people with dementia. He gave an oral presentation on a parallel session about   (The Arts and Dementia), a programme of the Nottingham-Worcester doctoral training centre funded by the Alzheimer’s Society. Tom also exhibited a poster on the NIHR Optimal project on effective health care for older people resident in care homes. A Medical student, Imogen Ovenden, who Tom supervises for her BMedSci, displayed a poster entitled ‘Bowling for Dementia’

Professor Justine Schneider and Alessandro Bosco co-presented a Social return on investment analysis of the Imagine study on arts interventions for people with dementia. People with dementia and their carers reported positive outcomes in relation to the mental wellbeing of participating individuals following involvement in arts programmes. These findings call for consistent integration of diverse arts activities in the care setting.

An example of art performance which promotes the mental wellbeing and quality of life of people with dementia was illustrated by Dr Orii McDermott, who presented on the development and preliminary evaluation of the CHORD (CHOrus Research in Dementia) Manual. This project aims to identify music therapeutic techniques that are transferable to facilitators of music activities and to develop a standardised singing manual.

Quality of life was central to the work that Déborah De Oliveira presented, entitled ‘Identifying meaningful aspects of quality of life for older family carers of people with dementia in focus groups’. Deborah also had a poster on the ‘Development and psychometric evaluation of the dementia quality of life scale for older family carers – DQoL-OC’. Our colleague Lucy Perry-Young presented ‘Broadening our understanding of good home care for people with dementia’.

Some PhD students also attended the conference. Aline Cavalcanti Barroso and Harleen Rai had an opportunity to collect ideas around their PhD projects on assistive technology in dementia. Claudio Di Lorito discussed and promoted his PhD project on the mental health of forensic psychiatric patients with dementia.

Having just begun with my doctoral studies, this was a spectacular first taste of my journey in dementia research. Indeed, I considered this my baptism of fire, as I had the opportunity to co-present my work in front of a large and technical audience during a parallel session. This was a fulfilling experience and a professionally enriching one, as I was able to challenge my stage fright, build up confidence and master my presentation. The audience responded engagingly to my talk and I was thrilled to receive very positive feedback from members of the audience at the end.

Although there were several poster and oral presentations on quality of care, little was dedicated to the models of person-centred care in dementia. Does the support people with dementia receive respect their personhood? Are the current models inclusive of the experience of the carers? During my first year, I aim to gather the existing evidence in this crucial area through a scoping review around person-centred care models. Given the centrality of personhood and the role of carers in delivering the care, it is timely that this concept is acknowledged and addressed if we aim to build a dementia-friendly society. I hope I will have the opportunity to present the findings of my review during the conference next year and share good practice with colleagues from different countries at the INTERDEM academy meetings to come.

Hoping that an even larger representation of researchers and people from the public will attend next year’s conference, we invite you to join us as ambassadors for dementia at the Alzheimer Europe conference 2017 in Berlin, Germany.

Alessandro Bosco is a postgraduate researcher and an Economic and Social Research Council PhD candidate in Mental Health & Wellbeing at the Institute of mental Health, University of Nottingham. Contact: Alessandro.bosco@nottingham.ac.uk



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Happy Holidays

Dear reader,

As we come to the end of another fantastic year for the blog we would like to thank you for all your support. We’ve had some fantastic content this year and as always its been great to have so many people sharing their experiences, research, views and opinions. We hope you have a brilliant festive season and look forward to sharing some great new content with you in January.


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Remember: if you end up with a little time to spare over the holiday season and you would like to write something, please get in touch as we would love to hear from you.

Happy holidays!

IMH blog team

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Josephine NwaAmaka -The meaning and understanding of Mental Health in Nottingham…150 questionnaires, three questions, 150 voices, 5 student volunteers, The Lord Mayor of Nottingham and a cold rainy day

blogpicThe ESRC Public Engagement Event successfully took place on Saturday 12th November 2016 at St Peter’s Square in Nottingham. This event follows the successful RAMHHE conference which was held on 10th October 2016 and the ongoing campaign which encourages students to leave one sentence about how we can support students in higher education with mental ill-health experiences.

As a mental health nurse and an economic and social research council (ESRC) PhD student in Mental Health, I am aware that mental health does not affect only higher education students, so it was important to facilitate a space of interaction for student volunteers and the public to dialogue on the issue of mental health.

The main aim of the Public Engagement Event was to engage in dialogue with the non-academic audience in Nottingham and explore their views on three questions:

What do you think mental health is?

Who or where would you go to for your mental health?

How can we better support mental health in Nottingham?

This was an event that nearly did not happen. You see, this was my first grant application and I did not know to ask for funding. Fortunately, I decided not to let the lack of funding stop me, so I self-funded the event and I am glad that I did.

Initially, the event was supposed to be held at the Queen’s Medical Centre (QMC) but my Head of School, Jo Lymn advised that it would be better held in town where we could interact with diverse groups of people rather than only people visiting the QMC. Luckily, my efforts to obtain permission paid off and we were allowed to host the event at St Peter’s Square.

Prior to the event, I met the Lord Mayor of Nottingham Councillor Saghir at the Royal College of Nursing Tea Party. We talked about the successful RAMHHE campaign and the Public Engagement event, and he promised to attend. A week later, the Civic Office wrote to confirm this.

On the morning of the event, I remember arriving at St Peter’s Square on that freezing cold and rainy day. I was anxious because I was not sure if the other volunteers and the Lord Mayor would attend because of the rain. That feeling soon changed as the volunteers arrived and we quickly set up a tiny sheltered space in front of a vacant store. We put up the ESRC banner, clipped the questionnaires to the clipboards, grabbed our umbrellas and smiled our way through the cold and rain. At 11.00am, the Lord Mayor arrived and he joined in the voluntary effort by speaking and taking photographs with people, answering their questions and interacting with us. The Lord Mayor’s selflessness inspired myself and the volunteers, for which I remain grateful.

We approached more than 500 passers-by and although some of them did not participate, they were polite as they walked by with either a wave of their hand to signal a no, a sorry I am not interested or I am in a hurry. However, we were able to obtain 150 completed questionnaires/surveys from 150 people who gave their verbal consent to taking photographs with us and answered the following three questions above.

It was a privilege to listen to people as they expressed their views about the questions and shared their family member’s experiences of mental ill-health. Several common themes emerged out of our 150 survey answers from the three questions above, of which the three most common themes included:

1:More funding to employ more mental health providers.

2: Early intervention to mental health.

3:More anti-stigma awareness campaigns.

As we packed up to leave, I could not help but wonder how useful this Public Engagement Event was, how my resilience to host the event despite the funding challenges paid off and how much I have learnt about public mental health from a few hours ’interaction and three questions.

The questions now is, how can we sustain such important mental health awareness events, so as to engage with the public and hear their views, perceptions and experiences?

Josephine NwaAmaka Bardi is a Registered Mental Health Nurse and an Economic and Social Research Council PhD student on the mental health and wellbeing pathway. She is also the founder of Raising Awareness of Mental Health in Higher Education. Contact: llxjnb@nottingham.ac.uk


For more information and sources of support:


Student minds

Graduate school advice about mental health




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