Mental Health Awareness Week 2019: New research into masculinity and men’s help seeking behaviours

A new study by Dr Robert Dempsey (Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Mental Health, Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) and Jessie Rocton, a student on the MSc Psychology (Conversion) course, is seeking to understand the psychological factors associated with men’s help-seeking intentions. This research coincides with the Mental Health Foundation‘s 2019 Mental Health Awareness Week, a week-long series of events which aim to improve knowledge of various mental health experiences, reduce stigma, and promote help-seeking amongst those experiencing significant health challenges.

It is well known that men are less likely to seek professional help for a range of health related issues, inclusive of mental and physical health (e.g. Men’s Health Forum), but the reasons for this disparity is not well known. Dr Dempsey’s research focuses on how individual’s perceptions of the social environment influence their mental and physical wellbeing, and he has conducted a number of studies into mental health, experiences of living with diagnoses of various mental health conditions (particularly bipolar disorder), the role of appraisals of the social environment on experiences of suicidality, predictors of substance use behaviours, and how individuals live with and ‘make sense’ of living with complex long-term health conditions. Dr Dempsey’s research is starting to focus on men’s experiences of mental health issues, starting with understanding the factors associated with men’s accessing (or not) of support for ongoing health issues.


Men aged 18 years and above sought for a new study!

The new study by Jessie and Dr Dempsey aims to address a gap in the literature by identifying the role of masculine social norms, self-perceptions and personality traits in the likelihood of seeking help from a variety of sources (ranging from healthcare professions to friends). The researchers are seeking volunteers, men aged 18 years and above, to take part in an anonymous online survey study, and answer a series of validated questionnaires measuring perceptions of masculinity, personality and help-seeking. A summary of the findings from this initial study will be posted on the InPsych once the findings have been published (check back for more details later this year!).

For further details about this online study, please visit the study’s website (click here).


The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research is home to research activity in the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University. The Centre is home to a number of research-active psychologists who are engaged in research across a wide range of psychological subdisciplines.

For more details about the Centre, its research activities, events and consultancy, please visit our website (click here).

Dr Alison Owen discusses her body image research on BBC Radio Stoke for Mental Health Awareness Week 2019

Dr Alison Owen

Dr Alison Owen (Lecturer in Health Psychology; Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) was featured on BBC Radio Stoke’s Breakfast Show with John Acres on Monday 13th May discussing body image as part of 2019’s Mental Health Awareness Week. For the 2019 Awareness Week, the Mental Health Foundation has focused on people’s experience of body image in relation to their psychological wellbeing.

Dr Owen has conducted a number of studies into people’s experiences of positive and negative body image, the impact of appearance-focus on health-related behaviours (e.g. smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol), and the relationship between social media use and body image esteem. You can listen to Dr Owen’s interview via the below BBC Sounds link:

BBC Sounds: BBC Radio Stoke – John Acres Breakfast Show (13.5.2019 – from 52 mins, 45 seconds in)


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.

Body Esteem & Social Media use: StaffsPsych Graduate Hollie publishes her undergraduate research!

By Dr. Alison Owen (Lecturer in Health Psychology, Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research).

As you’re probably already aware, social media is widely used nowadays. For example, the last recorded statistics of this year showed that Facebook alone had 2.27 billion monthly active users and one billion people were using Instagram in June 2018.

Researchers at the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research decided to look into whether using social media has an impact on a person’s feelings towards their body. Staffordshire University Undergraduate student Hollie Ormsby, along with her supervisors (Dr. Alison Owen and collaborator Dr. Manpal Bhogal from the University of Wolverhampton), surveyed 100 students, with participants completing measures of social media use and body esteem. The body esteem measure looks at how people feel about their body, and includes statements such as ‘I am proud of my body’. Hollie and her supervisors found that social media use and intensity of use (the amount of time people spent on social media) did not predict a person’s body esteem. However, they did find that the women had significantly lower body esteem compared to men. Whilst it might seem disappointing not to replicate previous studies’ findings in relation to body esteem and social media use, this study provides useful evidence indicating that the assumed negative effects of social media use may be more complicated than previously thought, especially in relation to body esteem.

Hollie and her supervisors have recently published their findings in the journal Current Psychology (click here to view the paper) and Hollie is progressing her studies at Staffordshire University on the Department of Psychology’s new MSc Foundations in Clinical Psychology course after completing her BSc (Hons) Psychology degree in 2018.


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.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Why everyone should know their attachment style – Professor Helen Dent writes for The Conversation

Professor Helen Dent (Emeritus Professor of Clinical & Forensic Psychology, Department of Psychology, Staffordshire University has written a short article for The Conversation UK about the need to understand your own attachment style in relation to your mental and physical health, amongst other outcomes.

The Conversation UK is a free news service featuring articles written by academics on a range of topics and current affairs. Staffordshire University is a member of The Conversation and Read the full article below:

The Conversation: Why everyone should know their attachment style

Watch out for more Conversation articles written by the members of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research!


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.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

The Psychology of Space….in Space

By Dr. Nikki Street, Dr. Gemma Hurst & Dr. Daniel Jolley

Could you live for a year or more in space? What challenges might you face living and working there? What would you miss about earth? These are the question we proposed to over 1500 attendees during the European Researchers Night at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in September 2018.

Psychologists from The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research at Staffordshire University attended the event where our aim was to introduce the guests to the physical environment in space and together discuss the challenges with space travel on people’s wellbeing. Drs Nichola Street, Gemma Hurst and Daniel Jolley, and Dina Grinstead and Darel Cookson were on hand during the night to discuss the Psychology of Space with guests.

The event was split into different parts.  First, guests ‘travelled’ to the International Space Station (ISS) using Virtual Reality equipment to explore the living conditions of space travellers.  We asked guests to consider what they would find most challenging living on the ISS for a year and what they might miss about earth during that time. The ISS that they explored can be termed an ICE environment; those environments which are Isolated, Confined and Extreme. Spending time in these types of environments is a psychological challenge.  For those guests who were a little too young to use the Virtual Reality, they were able to view the space centre on a projected screen.Alongside the VR exploration, we asked what guests would miss the most if they had to live in space for a year. The responses from guests were heart-warming and clear patterns appeared:  People would miss their Family, Friends, Pets, Food (they had tasted space food in another Staffordshire University run activity on the night) and nature. People talked about missing the space to walk the dog or the chance to change where you are.Next, guests entered a ‘psychology relief room’ in which they were exposed to natural imagery and sound. These nature interventions have been trailed in ICE environments as a way to dampen the potentially harmful effects of physical space with success. Evidence shows that even when direct access to nature is not possible (as it would not be in space) nature substitutes can go some way to reduce psychological harm.

While the ‘extreme’ aspect may be missing from many of our experiences on earth we can certainly think of many places that fit into the isolated and confined categories such as hospitals, prisons or even your home or work places. And like our space travellers pointed out, Nature exposure can go some way towards combatting the negative effects.  The research of Drs Nikki Street & Gemma Hurst aims to shed light on the impact of physical environments on an individual’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour. To learn more about the exciting research from the department please visit The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research‘s website.


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.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Dr Rob Dempsey comments on ‘smart drug’ use by university students for the i newspaper

Dr Robert Dempsey (Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) was featured in The i newspaper commenting on recent media coverage of the use of ‘smart drugs’ by university students. The story highlights reports of increasing rates of the non-prescribed use of substances like Ritalin by university students to improve their memory and performance in examinations.

Dr Dempsey conducts research into the role of perceived social norms in determining health-related behaviours, and has previously published research with EU colleagues on the role of perceived norms on students’ use of substance like alcohol, cannabis and other forms of illicit substances. Dr Dempsey’s research has highlighted the existence of misperceptions of the use of these substances amongst students, and the association between these misperceptions with personal use and attitudes towards using such substances (click here for a blog about Dr Dempsey’s collaborative research into the use of Ritalin and similar substances by students). Dr Dempsey teaches on Staffordshire University’s MSc in Health Psychology and a new MSc Foundations of Clinical Psychology course starting in September 2018.

The full story can be read on The i website below:

The i: Exclusive: University students turn to dark web for performance enhancing ‘smart drugs’


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health Psychology is a centre of excellence for 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 Centre for Health Psychology is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research.

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:

Innovative national study of university students’ experiences of high mood launched at Staffordshire University

By Dr Robert Dempsey, Senior Lecturer in Psychology.

As part of an exciting and innovative collaboration between eight UK universities and the Student Minds charity, we are conducting a national survey of the relationship between students’ experiences of high and variable moods with their academic experiences and general wellbeing. Experiences of variable mental health by university students has received significant attention over the past few years, with increases in the rates of reported mental health issues amongst students aged between 18 and 24 years and an increased number of students disclosing mental health difficulties to their universities (IPPR, 2017).

Whilst there has been a lot of discussion of students’ experiences of depression, anxiety, suicidality and the engagement in self-harm related behaviours, there has been little focus on the experience of high and variable moods amongst students and how this might impact on their social and academic functioning. High moods, which are associated with increased energy and activity levels, disturbed sleeping patterns, but also the engagement in more impulsive and risky behaviours, could have as much of an impact on student wellbeing during university studies as can depression, anxiety and negative moods. Given that studying for a degree is often one of the most stressful experience encountered in students’ lives, understanding how students respond to this stress and manage their moods is important for developing preventative interventions and improving students’ overall wellbeing and university experience.

Our unique collaboration aims to better understand students’ experiences of high and variable moods, identify the predictors of high mood amongst students and the potential avenues for intervention to improve students’ wellbeing and performance at university. As part of a collaborative network of researchers based at eight UK universities, which Staffordshire University is pleased to be part of (alongside Northumbria, King’s College London, Exeter, Manchester, Newcastle, Reading, and Glasgow universities) and Student Minds, we have launched a national survey of students’ experiences of high mood. We plan to follow-up this first survey with additional surveys to allow us to understand how students’ experiences of changeable and high moods develop over time.

Updates about this study and other research being conducted in the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research will be posted on the Department of Psychology’s InPsych blog!

The National Survey: Seeking University Students!

The survey is open to all UK university students aged between 18 and 25 years who are currently enrolled at any UK university. We are seeking a broad range of participants, including those who perhaps haven’t experienced any high or variable moods, to take part in the survey and help to inform future interventions in this area.

Note that Staffordshire, Northumbria and Exeter Psychology students can take part via their SONA systems (the study is listed in SONA and can be completed in return for credits). All UK students who complete the survey can also opt-in to a prize draw for vouchers.

For further information and/or to take part, please click here to visit the survey’s website.

 

Currently a student, but aged 25 years and over?

A separate study I am conducting is investigating how pro-social behaviours such as volunteering impact on mental health and coping strategies, e.g. suicidal thinking and self-harm. This is another collaborative study between myself, based at Staffordshire, and researchers at external universities.

Anyone can participate in this separate study (there is no age limit) which takes the form of an online survey of personality, prosocial behaviours and mental health. Students studying at Chester, Nottingham Trent and Staffordshire universities can sign up to the study in SONA to receive credits (please log into SONA to find the study).

If you are not a Chester/Staffs/Trent student, you can find out more about the prosocial behaviour study by clicking here. Chester/Staffs/Trent students please see SONA for more details.


The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research is home to research activity in the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University. The Centre is home to a number of research-active psychologists who are engaged in research across a wide range of psychological subdisciplines. The Centre has two overarching research streams: Health and Behaviour Change and Applied Development, Social and Cognitive Psychology.

The Centre provides training for PhD students, Research Masters degrees, as well as Professional Doctorates in Clinical and Health Psychology (click here for more details). The Centre also provides bespoke training to private and public organisations, as well as expertise for consultancy research opportunities. For more details about the Centre, its research activities, events and consultancy, please visit our website (click here).

New research links ADHD to multisensory integration

Dr Maria Panagiotidi

Dr Maria Panagiotidi (Lecturer in Psychology & Member of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) blogs about her new paper investigating sensory integration and ADHD:

In our daily life, we often take in information from multiple senses at the same time. As we interact with the environment, signals from various senses are integrated to create unified and coherent representation of our surroundings. This process is known as “multisensory integration”. The ability to integrate information from multiple senses has been shown to be abnormal in certain disorders such as autism. Anecdotal evidence suggests that individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) might also have deficits in multisensory integration. ADHD is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder and in roughly half of the children diagnosed with ADHD, symptoms persist into adulthood. It is characterised by attentional difficulties, hyperactive/impulsive behaviour, or both. ADHD can be viewed as the extreme end of traits found in the general population.

In a recent paper published in “Acta Psychologica”, we empirically tested multisensory integration in individuals with high and low level of ADHD traits and found significant abnormalities in the way they integrate visual and auditory signals. Specifically, adults who reported more inattention and hyperactivity symptoms, processed sensory information differently than adults with fewer symptoms.

In total, 40 participants with high and low ADHD traits were recruited and took part in a lab based task; they were presented with a series of brief sounds and simple images and were asked to decide whether they appeared at the same time or not. The image and the sound were presented either simultaneously or with slight delays (image before the sound or vice versa). The responses of the participants were used to measure multisensory integration. The effect of ADHD symptoms on performance was investigated by comparing the responses of the high and the low ADHD groups. The low ADHD group reported a higher number of simultaneous presentations. This finding suggests that individuals with ADHD symptoms are less likely to integrate multisensory information.

Perceiving signals from two or more modalities as occurring separately can lead to distractibility, one of the core and most disruptive symptoms of ADHD. Showing that ADHD might be linked to abnormal integration of sensory information also informs our understanding of neural mechanisms involved in the disorder. In particular, it provides further evidence for the involvement of the midbrain superior colliculus (SC) – a sensory structure linked to orienting the eyes and head towards salient stimuli – in ADHD (located towards the top of the image).

Our study identified a new area of focus for future ADHD research, which could potentially improve our ability to diagnose and assess ADHD. In addition to this, our results may provide future directions for possible ADHD treatment and behavioural interventions.

You can read the publication via the below link:

Panagiotidi, M., Overton, P. G., Stafford, T. (2017). Multisensory integration and ADHD-like traits: Evidence for an abnormal temporal integration window in ADHD. Acta Psychologica, 181, 10-17.


The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research is home to research activity in the Psychology Department at Staffordshire Centre. The Centre is home to a number of research-active psychologists who are engaged in research across a wide range of psychological subdisciplines. The Centre has two overarching research streams: Health and Behaviour Change and Applied Perception and Cognition.

The Centre provides training for PhD students, Research Masters degrees, as well as Professional Doctorates in Clinical and Health Psychology (click here for more details). The Centre also provides bespoke training to private and public organisations, as well as expertise for consultancy research opportunities. For more details about the Centre, its research activities, events and consultancy, please visit our website (click here).

Dr Jo Lloyd blogs about her new research into gambling motivations

Dr Jo Lloyd (Lecturer in Psychology and member of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) blogs about her ongoing research into gambling:

I was thrilled to recently receive funding from Staffordshire University’s Centre for Health and Development for a piece of research into people’s motivations for gambling. I have studied gambling motivations in the past (e.g. Lloyd et al., 2010) and it is clear that people gamble for multiple, diverse reasons. Many people enjoy gambling in moderation as a leisure activity, but some experience problems relating to their gambling, ranging from mild to severe. I believe that learning more about the varied factors that attract people to gambling is key piece of the puzzle of why some people experience difficulties while others find it to be harmless fun. Understanding these issues is important because it has the potential to help identify ways to prevent people from developing gambling problems, or recover from existing problems.

I believe that there is still much more that psychologists need to learn about gambling motivations, and the study I am now running is using a qualitative approach to gain a deeper understanding of the topic. This means that rather than running an experiment, or collecting questionnaires, I am interviewing people and collecting their detailed accounts of how and why they gamble. I’m currently looking for people aged 18 or older, from the Stoke-on-Trent area who gamble fairly regularly (at least a few times a month, but it could be any type of gambling) who can spare about an hour to chat to me. This can be done in person or over the phone, and we offer a gift voucher as a thank you for your time. Please get in touch with me via email (joanne.lloyd@staffs.ac.uk) for more info, if you are interested!

This research ties in with an existing web-based study that I am currently running, looking at how people’s cognitions (or thought processes) might influence their relationship with gambling. I am also looking for volunteers to take part in this study, which can be done online in about 15 minutes, and has a prize draw incentive. Anyone who is over 18 and has gambled even just once or twice in the past 12 months, can find out more and take part at: www.bit.ly/gamblingstudy.

Watch this space for an update on the findings of these studies in the future!


The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research is home to research activity in the Psychology Department at Staffordshire Centre. The Centre is home to a number of research-active psychologists who are engaged in research across a wide range of psychological subdisciplines. The Centre has two overarching research streams: Health and Behaviour Change and Applied Perception and Cognition.

The Centre provides training for PhD students, Research Masters degrees, as well as Professional Doctorates in Clinical and Health Psychology (click here for more details). The Centre also provides bespoke training to private and public organisations, as well as expertise for consultancy research opportunities. For more details about the Centre, its research activities, events and consultancy, please visit our website (click here).