Etched in the skin: Grief on a living canvas, memorial tattoos as expressions of grief

Written by PhD researcher Bee Swann-Thomas.

Bee Swann-Thomas

I am Bee Swann-Thomas and I am currently in my second year of studying for a PhD in Psychology. My research interest is exploring whether having a memorial tattoo has an impact upon the grieving process.

I have previously researched this topic for my MSc in Psychotherapeutic Counselling at Staffordshire University. What sparked my interest was the death of my Dad and having a memorial tattoo in his memory. Memorial tattoos have a very personal meaning to me, and I am pleased to have recently had my paper published in Mortality Journal.

The findings from this research showed that memorial tattoos can be a valuable therapeutic aid in the grieving process. They can serve as a permanent physical reminder of a loved one, help with continuing bonds, allow the deceased a virtual afterlife, help in the adjustment to loss, serve as a tool of communication, and be an embodied representation of change. Memorial tattoos empower the bereaved to emerge from the loss of a loved one with a ‘beautiful scar’.

Conducting my MSc research was really fascinating, and it was an honour to hear peoples’ stories of love and loss. As a result, I have decided to continue my research for my PhD.

I would like to invite you to participate in my research that is being conducted in the Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University. I am interested in the experience of individuals (aged 18 years or over) who have experienced the loss of a loved one and have had a memorial tattoo in their memory. I will be researching five different categories of bereavement: Perinatal loss, Loss through suicide, Military Loss, Cremation ashes tattoos and Loss through Covid-19.

The research will involve a one-to-one interview conducted remotely via the Microsoft Teams platform. The interview will last approximately 1 hour, where you will be asked questions relating to your loved one and your memorial tattoo. You will also be asked to provide a photograph of your memorial tattoo which will be included within the research.

If you are interested in taking part in the research or would like to request further information please contact the me at bee.swann-thomas@research.staffs.ac.uk


If you are affected by any of the bereavements outlined and would like to access a grief support service please contact one of the following:

  • Sands – Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity, Helpline: 0808 164 332, Email: helpline@sands.org.uk
  • Suviviors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS), Helpline: 0300 111 5065, Email: support@uksobs.org
  • Supporting the Military Family, Cruse Bereavement Care Helpline: 0808 808 1677, Email: helpline@cruse.org.uk
  • The Lullaby Trust, Helpline: 0808 802 6868, Email: support@lullabytrust.org.uk
  • Covid-19 Bereavement Support, Cruse Bereavement Care Helpline: 0808 808 1677, Email: helpline@cruse.org.uk

The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Dr Amy Burton contributes to an edited collection of chapters on physical activity and visual impairment

Dr Amy Burton

Dr Amy Burton has contributed to an edited collection of chapters on physical activity and visual impairment. The book, entitled Movement and Visual Impairment: Research across Disciplines has been edited by Dr Justin Haegele and is an in-depth review of research spanning a range of disciplines including biomechanics, physical education and Paralympic sport.

Dr Burton’s chapter reviews the research evidence regarding physical activity interventions for older adults with vision impairment. The chapter includes an over view of her own work highlighting how engaging in physical activity in later-life can be particularly challenging for those with vision loss (Burton et al, 2016) with a number of psychological, social and societal factors contributing to low levels of engagement (Burton et al, 2018).

Visually impaired person walking

The chapter provides a detailed overview and critique of interventions designed to promote physical activity for older adults with sight loss. The majority of these have been dedicated to reducing falls risk and have shown limited success. In the chapter Dr Burton highlights how a focus on functional limitations in research has been at the expense of acknowledging other psychological, cultural, and societal barriers to engagement. The chapter ends with a call for researchers to further engage with the social motivators for exercise in older adults with sight loss and to pay greater attention to the potential for the psychological, in addition to physical, benefits of being more active.

To learn more or purchase a copy of this book visit: https://www.routledge.com/Movement-and-Visual-Impairment-Research-across-Disciplines/Haegele/p/book/9780367434397


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University has a history of excellence in teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has active team of Health Psychologists who conduct research and provide consultancy in a range of health-related issues.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Research exploring body image in Female Athletes

Our Dr Alison Owen writes about her research exploring body image in female athletes.

Research carried out at Staffordshire University has looked into body image in a group of British female athletes, to look into how they feel about their appearance, and whether they feel that appearance pressures have impacted on their athletic careers in any way. The research was carried out by Staffordshire University graduate Tess Allen, alongside Staffordshire University Health Psychology lecturer, Dr Alison Owen.

British female athletes were interviewed individually, and asked to discuss their thoughts and feelings about their body. All of the athletes reported feeling the need to maintain a particular appearance. The women also all reported feeling pressure from outside influences, including the media, as well as from the uniforms they had to wear for their sports.

A number of suggestions and recommendations have arisen from the research findings, including a need for interventions to maintain a positive body image in female athletes, as well as considerations for factors such as uniform choice.

The work has been published in the Journal of Qualitative Research in Sports Studies. If you are interested in reading the full article, or have any questions about the study then please contact Dr Alison Owen – alison.owen@staffs.ac.uk


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Student Stories: Kim Buckless L6 BSc Psychology & Child Development Student – My final year project

Written by Kim Buckless, Psychology and Child Development student

I’m a final year mature student on BSc Psychology and Child Development. I wanted to share my experiences and a few tips from working on my final year project so far.

My experiences leading up to the project

Person looking stressed whilst studying. Image from pixabay.

I have been worried about my final year project throughout my course. Every time the project was mentioned my anxiety levels would be through the roof, thinking about SPSS, word counts, discussions and disseminating my findings. Now I’m in my final year and working on the project it is a little daunting, but I am determined to plough on and work on a project that I am really interested in.

My project

My project title is ‘Investigating the link between Autism and Eating Behaviours in Children and Adolescents’ (yes, it is a mouthful!). I am currently in the recruitment phase, which can be challenging as my project is looking for a specific demographic of participants (I know, haven’t made it easy for myself).

Thinking about your project?

Pages of a book folded up into a heart shape. Image from pixabay.

Read, and read a lot. I recommend having a read around the topics that you are interested in. Some articles include suggestions for future research which can be really useful. The project can be on any topic area in Psychology, this is a great aspect of the Psychology courses at Staffs as it gives you the opportunity to choose the topic area yourself and then work with your supervisor.

In addition to reading in your topic area I highly recommend participating in research projects. This gives you many ideas on different methodologies and other research areas that can help to develop your ideas when you are ready to put your project together. You will see the standard consent and debrief forms that you will adapt for your study. Furthermore, the University library has helpful guides if you are considering using Qualtrics to collect questionnaire responses that are worth checking out!

Working with your supervisor

If you haven’t got a clue about what project you’d like to conduct don’t worry! The lecturers do a pitch on their areas of interest and some potential ideas that you could build on in level 5. This enables you to consider which supervisor’s you might like to work with, and you can have a chat with them about your project ideas. This is a really good way to assess the feasibility of your project and gain feedback on your ideas. You can also chat about what the project will involve e.g. whether the study should be quantitative or qualitative, which may be a big deciding factor on your materials and which supervisor you choose.

Start with arrows off it indicating different directions. Image from pixabay.

If you still can’t decide don’t worry, you can submit multiple ideas to different potential supervisors, ranking them from your most preferred option at the end of level 5. This enables students and supervisors to be matched based on methodology, topic area and your preferences. Your project supervisor needs to be someone that you feel you will get on with because the number of meetings and emails about the project are relentless! In my case my supervisor is always there to support me and offer those much-needed pep talks!

Remember all the little steps count!

Well done written on a Blackboard. Image from pixabay.

Remember every part of the project you complete e.g., handing in your ethics form, is one ticked off your list, so be proud of yourself. Also, when you feel like it becomes overwhelming, take a break, and come back to it when you feel ready. Take advantage of the fact that you are being guided through every stage of your project as most careers in psychology will involve research. But don’t worry about making mistakes, it’s the best way to learn for the future.

Interested in participating?

Finally, I’m going to give my project a cheeky plug, so feel free to take part, share or tweet on your social media. If you have a child with a confirmed diagnosis of Autism, aged between 9 and 16 and fully verbal please do consider participating! The study will involve you and your child answering questions about their behaviours and thoughts around eating. It will also involve your child completing a brief multiple-choice quiz to assess their understanding of language. Thank you so much!

Autism written in jigsaw pieces. Image from pixabay.

The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

PhD Student Sonia publishes her first paper in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice!

Written by Sonia Begum, PhD student, exploring uptake and retention on the Diabetes Prevention Programme.

Sonia Begum

I am really pleased to have my first paper published from my PhD research, a systematic review in an international journal, Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice. I am supervised by Dr Rachel Povey, Professor Christopher Gidlow and Dr Naomi Ellis who are also co-authors of this paper.

I am one of several PhD students based in the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research at Staffordshire University.

My PhD programme is funded by the university and my aims are to explore important psychological factors affecting motivation to attend and complete diabetes prevention programmes (DPPs), with a particular focus on the Healthier You NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (NHSDPP). This a national programme consisting of a minimum of 13 group sessions over a 9-month period and aims to encourage those at high risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM), to make healthier lifestyle changes.

Diabetes prevention is currently a key priority both nationally and internationally. By maximising the number of people that start (i.e., uptake) and complete (i.e., retention) DPPs like the NHSDPP, this will ensure these programmes are both clinically effective and financially viable.

The published systematic review is the first to investigate recruitment strategies and behaviour change techniques associated with higher uptake and retention in Diabetes Prevention Programmes. Behaviour change techniques are key active ingredients of behaviour change and are now increasingly considered in behaviour change programmes.

Some of the key review findings were that problem-solving, demonstrating the behaviour, practising the behaviour, reducing negative emotions and using incentives for participation were more commonly found techniques in programmes with a lower number of drop-outs. By clinicians and programme organisers incorporating these techniques into their programmes, this will help towards achieving higher completion rates.

My following studies are currently being analysed and written up and will further explore the individual factors that affect participant motivation to attend and complete programmes like the NHSDPP.

If you would like to read the paper you can access it here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168822720305234


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

My experience completing the Staffs Psychology research internship and how it helped me!

Written by Matt Kimberley, BSc Psychology 2020 Graduate and Psychology PhD student

My name is Matt and I have just finished my undergraduate degree in Psychology with a first and I started my PhD in psychology in September (also at Staffs). During my time at Staffs I have fallen in love with the research side of psychology and this helped me set my sights on completing a PhD in psychology. To do this I knew research experience would be extremely helpful!  Thanks to the experience gained from completing the research internships (and one terrifying interview!) I have been accepted onto the Psychology PhD course at Staffordshire University and am due to start my research into the barriers people face in the disclosure of their sexual fantasies.

My experience completing two research internship during my undergraduate studies:

The first of these was during the summer of 2019 where I assisted Dr. Jade Elliott and Dr. Erica Lucas with their project which examined the influence of glucose on reasoning. This involved assisting with the transcription and coding of audio recordings of participants. Scores were then inputted into a spreadsheet. This internship really helped me to improve my skills in the management and organisation of data. This was incredibly useful during the data analysis stage of my third-year project which produced a very large database.

This year I applied for a research internship with Dr Sam Jones. This project looks at Digital Literacy. Through this summer, I have been helping Sam to find research into digital literacy and summarise and present this in a clear manner. I have found tables especially helpful for this as a means of presenting all the studies and the key information associated. As this is a new area of research for both myself and Sam, I have particularly enjoyed learning more about the area alongside Sam and sharing our findings through weekly teams meetings. Through this internship and my meetings with Sam, I feel my literature searching skills and the way that I organise research has improved massively. This will be very helpful next year when I am conducting a literature review for my own research! Through my work on this internship, I am being made a named author on the upcoming first journal article.

Through completing both research internships, my skills in literature searching and the management of research and data have improved. This has proved incredibly useful during my studies and will be useful when conducting my own research next year. If anyone is considering doing a research internship next year, I highly recommend it! Especially if you will be completing your third-year project the following year or are considering a career in research. The skills you will gain working alongside the lecturers will be incredibly helpful!


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Student Blog: Meet Erasmus student Tania Esparza Martínez

Written by Tania, Erasmus student 2019-2020

The Erasmus experience is an opportunity that European universities give you as a result of an agreement between them. It consists of experiencing half a course or an entire course at a university in another country of the European Union. In my case, I come from Spain and I chose to study my third year of the Psychology degree at Staffordshire University.

An Erasmus is an experience at an academic and personal level. It allows you to enjoy university life from a different perspective, and it gives you opportunities that the university system of your country probably doesn’t have, which can differentiate you from the rest in the future.

The first days are a non-stop, so I recommend to arrive a few days before to have time to see the city, familiarise yourself with the means of transport and settle in what will be your home for a few months. After those days, in my case, I had two weeks of “welcome week” at the university, one as an international student and another as a Staffordshire student. In those weeks, I got to know the campus and meet many other students, some international and other locals that helped me a lot to adapt. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the Staffordshire University staff for having made this adaptation process so easy and enjoyable and for helping me with everything I needed, especially Romina, my tutor, who is an excellent professional.

Another great opportunity is the extracurricular activities, and in Staffordshire University they have a great variety of societies that are clubs created by the students themselves to meet people with their same interests or hobbies. They range from sports clubs to clubs where they organize trips to visit the country’s various amusement parks or where they hold meetings to watch movies or record short films. I was interested in the Cheerleading team, and even though I had never considered being a cheerleader, I found it exciting and fun, so I joined the team and discovered a sport that I love. Let the experience surprise you, be open to things you didn’t expect, or you hadn’t thought about because look at me, we compete in nationals!

As a last tip, I will tell you to be yourself, to enjoy to the fullest and to strive with studies and language, it is enriching to show yourself that you can. Take advantage of every moment and make mistakes if necessary. Travel a lot and get to know every corner of your city until you find your favourite. And most importantly, live it like it’s gonna happen in two minutes because I’m sure that’s the feeling we’ll get when we get back home.


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Meet the StaffsPsych Graduates: Nicola Clarke (MSc Health Psychology)

Blog piece written by Nicola Clarke, MSc Health Psychology Graduate 2020

A fantastic experience!! Staffs MSc Health Psychology course has broadened my social network, enhanced my research skills and taught me to apply psychological knowledge in the real world.

About me:

I’m a recent MSc Health Psychology graduate with research interests in experimental psychology and promoting healthy food choices. On completion of my BSc in Psychology at Leeds Beckett, I was keen to continue my studies with the aim of becoming a chartered psychologist. After exploring several career pathways, I decided to apply for the MSc in Health Psychology. Following this, I took a year out to work and save up for the course. I joined Staffs as a new student in September 2019 enrolling as a full-time student living in Shelton, near the Stoke-on-Trent campus.  

My research:

“The Effect of Health Priming on Visual Attention and Food Choice: An Eye-Tracking Experiment”

During recent years, rising rates of obesity have contributed to various health complications such as cancer. This issue could be explained by our current living environment, which constantly advertises unhealthy foods, making it more likely for us to choose and consume them. At present, there are no successful methods for guiding consumers to make healthy, rather than unhealthy food choices. Therefore, it is really important to find new ways to achieve this.

Research suggests that health priming (e.g. showing someone the word ‘healthy’) can increase visual attention towards healthy foods and prompt people to choose them. Studies have also found health priming effects to be more pronounced in dieters because being healthy is more important to them. Therefore, it may be useful to target health priming interventions at this group. However, this is a new area of research. More evidence is needed before health priming can be considered as a tool for reducing obesity.

My project involved students choosing between healthy and unhealthy foods, whilst either being shown a health prime (the words ‘healthy recipe’), a prime unrelated to health (the words ‘new recipe’) and no prime (no words). The primes were shown on a banner like an advert and the task was made to look like an online supermarket. Whilst students were making their food choices, an eye-tracker was used to measure visual attention (how long students looked at the foods). A questionnaire was then used to assess whether students were dieters or non-dieters.

Example of both of the banners and food choices

Two forms of quantitative analysis called ANOVA and mixed ANOVA were used to analyse the food choice, eye-tracking and dieting data collected.

The findings:

  • Health primes did not guide people to make healthy food choices.
  • Health primes did increase visual attention for healthy foods.
  • Health primes guided non-dieters to choose healthy foods, but not dieters (suggesting it may be counterproductive to target health priming interventions at dieters).
  • Health primes did not increase visual attention for healthy foods in dieters or non-dieters.

This research provides a valuable contribution where current knowledge is limited. The key finding that a health prime increased visual attention for healthy foods in an online supermarket has important implications for potential intervention design. For example, health primes could be used to effectively steer consumer attention towards healthy foods.

Future research should investigate health priming in real world settings and its effectiveness over time. The current findings could then combine with future research to provide a tool for guiding consumers to make healthier food choices and reduce obesity.  

  My top tips for students considering the MSc:

  1. Make connections! Get in touch with staff and students. Ask about the university. Ask about the course. Contact me about my experience.
  2. Plan! Prioritise your learning. Having my finances and living arrangements sorted prior to the course start date really helped me to focus on my assignments.
  3. Apply! This course offers you every opportunity for success.
  4. Get involved! Join a society. Attend guest speaker lectures. Try out new research equipment. Explore new topics. Present your research.

Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University has a history of excellence in teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has active team of Health Psychologists who conduct research and provide consultancy in a range of health-related issues.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Sophia Thomas joins as our new Schools and Colleges Champion!

Written by Sophia Thomas, Psychology Schools and Colleges Champion.

I joined Staffordshire University in July 2020 as the psychology departments Schools and Colleges Champion.

I graduated from Staffordshire University with BSc (hons) Psychology and Criminology in 2016 and from the University of Gloucestershire MSc Forensic Psychology in 2018. I am now studying at Hartpury University for my MRes Anthrozoology (which is the study of human-animal interactions), and I am about to start my dissertation, looking at the therapeutic effects of interacting with animals in young people/adults.

I worked as a community youth worker between 2016 and 2019 with children aged 5 – 16, supporting on the outdoor education program and running the community groups, small target groups and holiday clubs. Between 2017 – 2018 I also worked as a Family Support Worker at HMP Leyhill and have been working as a community carer and school cover supervisor from November 2019 until joining Staffordshire University.

I am very excited to start visiting schools and colleges to run sessions on psychology at Staffs!

Fun facts about me:

  1. I have a house rabbit called Tonic, soon to be joined by a Tortoise (yet to be named!).
  2. I have spent several nights with a baby baboon sleeping in my bed when I was volunteering in Namibia at an animal sanctuary (so I now have the very useless knowledge of how to put a nappy on a baboon to make it less messy having one for a sleepover!).
  3. I was an extra in the film The Libertine with Johnny Depp and Johnny Vegas when I was 10. They were filming a scene in a village near where I grew up and we ended up nearby on the day of filming so myself and my brother got to be extras.

Are you a school or college and would like to arrange a talk, workshop, visit? Please get in touch: psyschoolevents@staffs.ac.uk


Exterior Science Centre

The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.