Self-care strategies used by Children and Young People (CYP)

In August 2019, the Anna Freud Centre published a report (Garland, Dazell, & Wolpert, 2019) describing the experiences of CYP in their use of self-care strategies for their anxiety and/or depression, as well as the views of parents and carers. The report highlighted that there was a dearth of research into more widely available self-care strategies that were not delivered by mental health professionals. 

How did the researchers conduct the study?

Two anonymous online surveys were delivered – one for CYP between 11-25 years old who self-reported experiencing anxiety and/or depression, and another for parents and carers of a child who has experienced anxiety and/or depression. Respondents were asked whether they (or child of parent and/or carer) had used (or not) a list of 85 approaches to self-care, whether they would recommend them (or not), or to indicate that they (or their child) had not used a particular approach. The survey also collected qualitative responses. 

What were the results of the study?

Commonly used/recommended strategies

Both groups advocated use of strategies such as listening to music, watching TV or a film, and going outside, amongst others. CYP individually specified that they would use strategies such as maintaining personal hygiene and walking, whereas parents and carers specified strategies such as socialising and spending time outside in nature.

Not recommended/used again 

Both groups specified that they would not recommend/use eating more/a lot, spending time alone, and avoiding thinking about a difficult situation, amongst others as a strategy for managing their low mood and/or anxiety. CYP individually specified that they would not use strategies such as daydreaming and distraction, and parents and carers highlighted strategies such as avoiding conflict and gaming, amongst others. 

Qualitative responses

What is important to you when selecting a strategy?

All groups highlighted that freedom, support from others, as well as accessibility were important factors for consideration when selecting a self-care strategy. CYP also felt that they did not want to put any stress on others. 

Why do they work for you?

All groups highlighted that self-selection, distraction and support were key factors as to why the strategies selected worked. As a group, CYP also specified that being alone, routine, and no pressure were also factors. Parents and carers highlighted the increased confidence or enjoyment that the self-care strategies brought to their child.

Further research

Responses were varied and the groups felt that creative activities (e.g., art), sport and exercise (e.g., dance), as well as social strategies should be further investigated, amongst others.


The report concluded that further, detailed evaluations of self-care strategies were needed (what works, or does not, and why), as well as for the research agenda to be informed by the lived experience of CYP, parents and carers. The current work described is ongoing and feedback can be given here

Blog post written by Dr Rachel Moss, Research Associate for the Office for Students funded PGR Wellbeing project, based within the School of Education and Sociology (EDSOC) at the University of Portsmouth. 

Mental Health and Wellbeing of Postgraduate Researchers: Reflections from Brighton (UKCGE)

From the 16th – 17th May, the Higher Education community and beyond descended on the Jury’s Inn Waterfront in Brighton, for the 1st International Conference on the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Postgraduate Researchers. The conference was organised by United Kingdom Council for Graduate Education (UKCGE), in partnership with nature research, the University of Portsmouth, and the University of Sussex.

Across the two days, presentations and roundtable discussions showcasing the latest research and best practice within PGR mental health were delivered (the conference programme can be viewed here). Such presentations also included updates from a selection of the Office for Students Funded Catalyst projects, including the PGR Wellbeing project (led by the University of Portsmouth, in partnership with Leeds Beckett University, and co-presented by Dr Wendy Sims-Schouten and I).


A range of quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods projects across the UK and internationally are exploring how PGR mental health can be supported – ranging from individual interventions, through to environment/cultural change at an Institutional level. Topics were wide-ranging and included use of pastoral tutors to support PGR mental health, exploring PGR perspectives of their study, how we can build communities, and on creating evidence-based wellbeing programmes.

A particularly poignant session from Day One (16th May) included the PGR panel in the morning, with Danielle Hayter and Mahmoud Elmarzouky from the University of Portsmouth, as well as Yasser Kosbar, and Dr Sophie Valeix from the University of Sussex, discussing their experiences of PGR study and what they felt needed to change. The discussion hit close to home for me, and for many within the room; reminding us all (if ever we needed it), what the focus should be on and why we were there.

There was agreement that best practice, particularly from the Catalyst projects, needs timely sharing across the sector; that work should also focus on solutions to the problems identified (i.e. what can we take back to our Institutions now); that there needs to be a cultural/environmental shift in Higher Education, and that PGRs should be involved in decision making (co-production).

With the recent announcement of further funded projects supporting a step change in mental health for all students (OfS Challenge Competition), student mental health more widely remains firmly in the public eye.

To read the conference updates and further learning, see #MHWBrighton on Twitter. The conference programme can be viewed here. The 2nd International Conference on the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Postgraduate Researchers will take place in November 2020, with conference location to be confirmed.

PGR Wellbeing team representatives (left to right): Dr Jane Creaton (PI), Mahmoud Elmarzouky (PGR), Danielle Hayter (PGR), Dr Rachel Moss (RA), Dr Wendy Sims-Schouten (Co-Investigator).

Blog post written by Dr Rachel Moss, Research Associate for the Office for Students funded PGR Wellbeing project, based within the School of Education and Sociology (EDSOC) at the University of Portsmouth.

Welcome Diversity – a one day conference promoting inclusive practice

On the 13th of May, ‘Welcome Diversity – A One – Day Conference on Promoting Inclusive Practice’ took place in Trowbridge. It was organised by West-Wiltshire Multi-Faith Forum (WWMFF) in collaboration with Dr Wendy Sims-Schouten, colleagues from the University of Portsmouth and the Mental Health in Childhood and Education Hub. There were about 60 professionals from across Wiltshire and Portsmouth present during the conference. The mayor of Wiltshire also attended the conference and gave a speech in relation to the importance of diversity.

What happened at the conference?

After the introduction from Glenys Henriette, Chair of West Wiltshire Multi-Faith Forum, Dr Sam Warner, chartered and consultant clinical psychologist from Manchester with specific expertise in trauma, abuse, neglect and loss presented her topic around ‘Abuse and Child Protection’. She explores the psychology behind abusive childhood and how it continues to have an impact on our adulthood. Furthermore, she expressed her personal experiences, with racism and her attitudes towards dealing with it. She also shared her professional experiences with different clients with extreme cases of abuse. This is a very important topic and Dr Sam Warner presented it in a very informative as well as in a comical and light-hearted way which was taken well by the professionals in the audience.

Dr Wendy Sims-Schouten, Associate Professor in Childhood Studies, University of Portsmouth and Founder of the Mental Health in Childhood and Education (MICE) Hub presented her research on ‘Mental Health, Wellbeing & Safeguarding: Challenges & Solutions for BAME Families as Service Users’. She shared the key findings obtained from the research. She was very informative and passionately expressed her concerns in relation to discrimination experienced by BAME families. She explained the statistics, facts and other research that refer to discrimination and inadequate services available for the BAME families. The audience acknowledged the findings from the research and were interested in improving their practice. They asked questions about training in regards to the topic such as unconscious bias and were interacting with other audience members in order to find relevant information.

After lunch, an activity was set by Dr Ann Emerson, Lecturer in International Education, University of Portsmouth and an expert in education, conflict, peacebuilding and the marginalization of minority populations. The activity required dividing the group into three teams: Alpha, Beta and anthropologists. All three groups were separated from each other and people who were alpha and beta were given instructions on how to communicate with only people from their group and use a distinctive language that only they can understand. All of the participants were brought together and asked to interact with each other using the instructions. The role of the anthropologists was to observe and understand what the two groups were trying to do. They could perceive that there was a conflict between those two groups, there was a barrier to communication as they were unable to understand each other. Dr Ann Emerson then required all the participants to reflect on how they felt when they could not communicate with each other. Answers included: isolated, frustrated, angry and disrespected. The moral of the activity was to look at barriers such as language and culture in the society and how it has an impact on people. One of the member from the audience explained that she needs to look a certain way or talk a certain way in order to be taken seriously by professionals and the woman next to her found it quite shocking as she has never had to think about that and acknowledged that it is a privilege that people of minority do not have. 

Dr Sukhbinder Hamilton, Senior Lecturer in Education, the University of Portsmouth and an expert in inclusion and diversity started her workshop by sharing her experiences of discrimination and how it feels to be an Asian- British woman. She followed her talk by an activity that required groups of people to be seated on different tables. Keywords such as knowledge, attitude and access were handed to people in each table and were requested to discuss what each word meant to them as a professionals practicing in a diverse society.

Overall, it was well organised and a successful conference that aimed to raise awareness around important subjects that are often overlooked and require a serious consideration.