Ola, from West Yorkshire, UK, is a postgraduate researcher in Education. Her thesis title is "The role of multiple risk exposure and protective factors in early adolescent girls’ emotional symptoms: A mixed methods study".
On my background
I worked for many years in early years education, with a focus on the personal and emotional needs of young children and particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
This led me to an interest in risk research and I eventually decided that I would like a career in research and academia in order to contribute to knowledge and understanding of how educators can best support children and young people facing disadvantage, particularly around mental health, hence the PhD.
On my research
My main focus is child and adolescent mental health, particularly what puts young people at risk of mental health difficulties, and what can prevent these negative outcomes from happening, including what schools can do.
My thesis is focused on adolescent girls as there’s evidence that this group is experiencing greater distress in recent years, but generally, I’m interested in adolescence on the whole.
I’m also very interested in the way that research stakeholders take part in and engage with research, including how young people experience this process and how teachers make use of evidence in schools – I’m also the co-founder and co-editor of the Manchester Institute of Education’s 'Building Evidence into Education' (MIE BEE) project and blog.
On my motivation
I did my undergraduate degree part-time at a linked college, so when I came to do a master’s degree in MIE, this was the first time I’d really engaged with researchers and saw the work that was being done.
I saw that the values of the team here and the research being done aligned with my own interests, particularly around addressing inequality and mental health, and so when I saw a funded position available I knew this would be a perfect fit for me.
The main project I work on, HeadStart, is an incredibly impactful programme and we work with a number of organisations and local authorities to create and assess change for young people, which I love being able to be a part of.
On my aspirations
I’d really like to be able to produce and contribute to research that is impactful and makes a meaningful difference for people.
Mental health is something that is shared by everyone and adolescence is a really crucial time in the development of mental health difficulties, so this research shouldn’t just be something that’s done behind closed doors, it should be shared and talked about and seek to produce change.
It’s often said that investing knowledge and making change in this area is important because it’s economically beneficial in the long run, but for me and many of the people here in MIE this is seen as simply an ethical responsibility to help figure out how we can support children and young people who are at risk of, or who have, mental health difficulties.