Does compassion alleviate the difficulty for health professionals working with patients who have unpleasant symptoms?

Project code:  MHS052

Department

  • Psychological Medicine

Location

Auckland

Supervisor

Lisa Reynolds

All patients should be treated with dignity and compassionate care by their treating health professionals. However, maintaining a professional approach can be challenging when working with patients who present with aversive symptoms such as ulcerating wounds, faecal incontinence or disfiguring burns. When confronted with unpleasant symptoms, health professionals will sometimes need to counter the natural tendency to withdraw. The aim of this study is to assess whether compassion has a role in lessening the difficulty that health professionals may experience in working with patients presenting with aversive symptoms.

Skills

The summer student will be involved in reviewing the relevant literature, administering an online questionnaire, recruitment of medical students and health professionals to complete the online questionnaire, management of data, analysing results, and writing the study up for publication. The student should be proactive, able to work independently, be confident in dealing with others, and have excellent writing skills.

What could we do better? Exploring adolescents’ views on e-therapy (SPARX) in New Zealand

Project code:  MHS061

Department

  • Psychological Medicine

Location

Auckland

Supervisor

Dr Karolina Stasiak

SPARX is an award-winning Ministry of Health funded online program designed to support adolescents with mild to moderate symptoms of depression. It is one of the first such public mental health initiatives in the world. Over 3500 thousands young people have signed up to use SPARX since it was launched in 2014. To get the greatest benefit out of SPARX, users are instructed to complete all seven modules, but adherence levels vary greatly between individuals.

This project will focus on exploring and understanding the reasons why adolescents who signed up for SPARX do not complete the whole program and what adaptations or additional features may be needed to improve adherence.

The project will involve 1) creating an online questionnaire (and subsequent pilot testing), 2) distributing the questionnaire using a database of SPARX users, 3) extraction and analysis of data 4) conducting up to 25 telephone interviews with survey responders (who agree to be contacted for further communication) and 5) analysis of the qualitative (interview) data. 

This project will be carried out in the Department of Psychological Medicine with the researchers who have created SPARX, but will require liason with staff from the National Institute of Health Innnovation (NIHI) who have implented SPARX online. This is a great opportunity to contribute to exciting ongoing research on the implementation of online therapies for young people New Zealand.

Skills

  • Survey design
  • Accuracy and attention to detail
  • Quantitative and qualitative data anlaysis
  • Ability to build rapport with young people
  • Data handling, analysis and report writing

How do clinicians use ‘apps’ when working with young people with mental health and alcohol and drug problems?

Project code:  MHS062

Department

  • Psychological Medicine

Location

Auckland

Supervisor

Dr Grant Christie

This project aims to investigate how youth mental health and alcohol and other drug (AOD) clinicians incorporate e-interventions and apps into psychological treatments with young people. The project will be carried out with the Werry Centre and Department of Psychological Medicine in association with the HABITS team, who are involved in a wider project (A Better Start) to develop and test app-based interventions for youth. We will use existing workforce development databases to identify and survey health professionals from a range of disciplines. We will explore participants’ existing practice but also enquire as to what kind of app-based tools and interventions they would like to see in the future to assist them in their work, including investigating factors which are likely to support ongoing use of app-based interventions. From the survey we will identify a small sub-sample of clinicians who are more comfortable incorporating technology into their practice and conduct telephone interviews with them to gain a more in depth understanding of the benefits and pitfalls of e-interventions. 

Skills

  • Focused, small literature review to support study
  • Designing an online questionnaire
  • Effective engagement, liaison and communication with stakeholders and potential research participants (via the research process)
  • Quantitative data collection, cleaning and analysis
  • Basic qualitative data collection and collation
  • Presentation and dissemination of results

Is there an app for that? How do young people in New Zealand interact with health apps designed to support emotional health?

Project code:  MHS073

Department

  • Psychological Medicine

Location

Auckland

Supervisor

Dr Karolina Stasiak

There are thousands of commercial health apps for smart phones and more come onto the market each month. Some are designed specifically to support emotional wellbeing such as mood diaries, relaxation or mindfulness programmes. It is not always clear if the apps are evidence-based and/or if the users find them useful or engaging. Even less is known about how adolescents use these tools in their everyday lives.

This project will focus on exploring adolescents’ use of emotional wellbeing apps to help us understand what makes some apps popular and potentially impactful. We are particularly interested in identifying specific features that may assist us to create innovative and effective tools to engage young New Zealanders.

The project will involve qualitative methods (interviews and focus groups, if appropriate) to explore views of adolescents who report using health apps. In addition, early concepts developed by our research team may be presented to the participants to gain preliminary feedback on work in progress.

This project will be carried out in the Department of Psychological Medicine with a team of researchers who have a special interest in designing and testing e-therapies for children and adolescents (e.g. SPARX for youth depression launched nationally in 2014 and a new youth e-health project under the umbrella of the National Science Challange). This is a great opportunity to contribute to exciting ongoing research on the development of e-health interventions to support the mental health wellbeing of New Zealand youth.

Skills

  • Interviewing skills
  • Qualitative data analysis (NVIVO)
  • Ability to build rapport with young people
  • Accuracy and attention to detail
  • Data handling, analysis and report writing

Support following self-harm in primary care

Project code:  MHS076

Department

  • Psychological Medicine

Location

Auckland

Supervisor

Ian Soosay

There are over 500 deaths every year from suicide and thousands of people who present to hospital after self-harm. A significant number of people are supported by their GPs following their discharge from hospital. We aim to better understand how people are followed up in primary care and what happens to them, with the aim of improving services to this population.

In this summer studentship, you will review the current literature in the field, and help design a questionnaire to test a hypothesis that you have developed. You will then work with a Primary Care Liaison nurse to contact GP practices and obtain appropriate data, which you will analyse. Finally, you will present your findings to the ADHB mental health leadership team to help develop clinical services. If appropriate, you will be supported to present your work more widely, such as conference presentations or papers.

Skills

1. Literature review

2. Study design

3. Applying research skills in clinical environments

4. Analysis of data

5. Dissemination of findings

Eating Disorders in New Zealand

Project code:  MHS100

Department

  • Psychological Medicine

Location

Auckland

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. In New Zealand, 1.7% of the population are estimated to suffer from disordered eating, with 90% of sufferers being female. Data reviews indicate that eating disorders have been increasing in countries around the world since the 1950s.

This study aims to audit the profiles of individuals referred to the Auckland Regional Eating Disorder Service at two separate time periods. The audit will inform understanding of the changes in eating disorder referrals and presentations in New Zealand’s largest city.

Skills

Specific objectives include:

  • conducting a literature review
  • conducting data entry and analyses
  • preparing a report on findings including graphs and statistical analyses
  • assisting with writing for publication (co-authorship)

The successful candidate will sign a confidentiality agreement with the ADHB and will have cleared a police check.  

Forensic mental health evaluations: does gender matter?

Project code:  MHS101

Department

  • Psychological Medicine

Location

Auckland

Violent offending by women has been on the rise. Women are perpetrators of relationship violence, child abuse, child homicide, and stalking, among other offenses.  Yet, propensity toward violence is often perceived as a masculine rather than a feminine trait. An understanding of the intersection of women's lives and crime is crucial, else we allow violence to continue and underestimate risk.

Forensic psychiatry is situated at the intersection of mental health and the law. Evaluations sought by the Courts often include determinations of Fitness (Competency) to Stand Trial, Sanity at the time of the Act, and sentencing/ treatment recommendations. Malingering (false or exaggerated reports of symptoms) and claims of amnesia may more commonly occur in forensic evaluations. This study will consider forensic reports written to the courts by the forensic mental health service and outcomes related to gender. Women's mental health histories, substance abuse histories, and relationship histories, as well as violence histories will be considered.   

Skills

  • conducting literature searches
  • defining a research question
  • managing a research project
  • data collection, entry and analysis
  • writing for publication

As well, with proper police and justice clearances, the successful applicant will have some forensic clinical experiences over the summer, in order to further their own understanding of the backdrop of the project. 

Deliberate Self-Harm in New Zealand Young People

Project code:  MHS143

Department

  • Psychological Medicine

Location

Auckland

Supervisor

Hiran Thabrew

Deliberate self-harm is a common issue in New Zealand young people.  Current evidence-based treatment modalities include cognitive behavior therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, mentalisation based therapy and others. Clinical practice varies nationally and there is limited information about how best to address this issue in New Zealand. 

This project will involve:

  • Drafting a review paper of current practice (based on summaries of key evidence based therapies in conjunction with the primary supervisor and other clinicians)
  • Collating the results of a national survey of approaches to managing deliberate self-harm in child and adolescent mental health services and
  • Making recommendations for future clinical practice. 

 

The project can be undertaken in a flexible manner during the summer holiday period (i.e. not office-bound).  It should also culminate in a publication with the student being a named author. 

Skills

You will learn how to:

  • Manage a research project
  • Conduct a literature review
  • Use referencing software
  • Write a paper for publication in a peer-reviewed journal

The Pecking Order: Understanding how people assess and perceive social hierarchy

Project code:  MHS160

Department

  • Psychological Medicine

Location

Auckland

Supervisor

Ian Soosay

Socio-economic status is associated with significant differences in health outcomes across a number of illnesses. In this exploratory study, we are interested at looking at ways to better understand how people assess and perceive their position within social groups. You will review the current literature and help develop behavioural and computer based tools which will then be piloted on volunteers to assess their feasibility and acceptability for eventual use in clinical populations.

Skills

1. Literature review

2. The development of psychological experimental tasks

3. Research management - including recruitment, administering the experiment and the analysis and interpretation of results

4. The dissemination of the findings.