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“Re-ignited my drive to ensure all my work is informed by robust evidence” – Wolfson Centre Summer School 2022

23 August 2022

Charlotte Hanson is a practitioner based in the Public Health team at Leeds City Council. In this blog, Charlotte shares her experience of attending the Wolfson Centre’s first Summer School in Youth Mental Health and reflects on how the lectures have made her think about local strategy in response to findings from research.

I work in Public Health at Leeds City Council with a focus on improving children and young people’s mental health and reducing health inequalities.

I work closely with partners across the NHS, local council, and third sector on programmes such as improving access to good quality mental health information, skilling up with a wider workforce to provide support and signpost, reducing stigma, and suicide prevention (examples here).

Another initiative in Leeds is our work with MindMate – a local mental health website for children and young people. This is part of a wider Public Health programme to encourage families to talk openly about mental health and increase awareness of where to get help if they need it.

I was excited to attend the summer school to enhance my work.

Interpreting and applying the evidence base in practice is a core competency within Public Health.

I recently carried out a Health Needs Assessment on the mental health of children from minority ethnic communities. In this work, I reviewed the published literature on the prevalence of mental health problems, and inequalities in service access. However, we do not always have the capacity to look in so much depth at the research and must make pragmatic decisions about how to develop projects based on our understanding of good practice.

Attending the Wolfson Summer School has re-ignited my drive to ensure all my work is informed by robust evidence.

An example was the session about school interventions. In Leeds, we have a whole school approach to mental health that we are really proud of, including self-assessment support, curriculum, pupil ambassadors, and so on; but attending the lecture about the evidence base for successful school interventions has reminded me that we need to continue to re-assess our approach and learn from up-to-date research.

Charlotte Hanson - Leeds City Council initative
Signs have been installed in parks, leisure centres and schools across Leeds to raise awareness of MindMate.

The discussion about the ‘evidence-implementation paradox’ rang true to me, as it’s a challenge to always implement work in response to research findings. Yet it has made me reflect on the risk of implementing things because intuitively they feel like a good idea, but in the absence of evidence, it will actually make a difference!

I found all the lectures and workshops fascinating – some gave additional context/detail to areas I already have knowledge of, including secular trends in mental health and suicide and self-harm. Others gave me a grounding in new areas including neuroscience, developmental research, and genetics.

The workshop on translating research into policy was interesting, as although it focussed on national policy, I think it is relevant at a local government level too.

I am now aiming to build better relationships with local researchers and also looking forward to staying linked to the Wolfson Centre in the future to learn further from research experts.


Special thanks to Charlotte for sharing her experience with us. 

Twitter: @charlot21988745