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Introducing Myles-Jay Linton

Myles-Jay Linton, Vice-Chancellors Fellow in Young Peoples Mental Health

Myles-Jay Linton, Elizabeth Blackwell Institute Vice-Chancellor's Fellow in Young People's Mental Health

30 July 2019

With the Mental Health in Young People research initiative up and running at the University of Bristol we talk to Myles-Jay Linton, the new Elizabeth Blackwell Institute Vice-Chancellor's Fellow in Young People's Mental Health about his research and why a joint approach to research in this area is so important.

So, Myles. tell us a bit about your background

After some time working in the arts, I undertook an undergraduate degree in psychology (University of Surrey), my PhD was in the economics of wellbeing (University of Exeter) and my post-doctoral research had a strong focus on health and healthcare (NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care West – NIHR CLAHRC WEST). My background is interdisciplinary at its core, but mental health and wellbeing has been a common theme across these and many other roles that I’ve had.

What made you apply for the Vice Chancellor's Fellowship?

Fellowships are incredibly sought-after opportunities. Honestly, I think a big part of it for me was getting to a point where I thought ‘I can give this a good shot’. This topic lends itself well to an interdisciplinary approach, so I was motivated by the prospect of being able to blend the health and social sciences. Further, it’s a very unique opportunity to undertake a fellowship within an institution that had elevated the topic to the top of its agenda. Importantly though, I wouldn’t have been in a position to compile a competitive application without the support of my line management within Health Economics at Bristol (HEB), consultation with experts within Research Enterprise and Development (RED), and the spectacular opportunities I had whilst working within NIHR CLAHRC West.

Tell us about the research you will be carrying out

My research will take a mixed-methods approach, drawing on both quantitative statistical methods (multi-level modelling), and in-depth qualitative data collection with students and staff. One of the main focuses of my research will be investigating the challenges students face when transitioning into higher education, whilst also exploring the vulnerabilities associated with transitions that occur throughout the ‘university journey’. Young people (aged 16-24) report some of the highest levels of loneliness, overlapping with a time period when lots of young people will be going to university. In response to this, I will be investigating how students experience and respond to poor quality and quantity of social connectedness. Finally, I will examine how a new University of Bristol policy that enables students to consent to the university contacting a named person (such as a parent) if there is concern around their mental health is interpreted and implemented. This work will investigate the decision-making process and understanding of the policy from multiple stakeholder perspectives.

Your research is part of a wider Mental Health in Young People research initiative at Bristol. Can you explain a bit more about that?

The University of Bristol has launched this Elizabeth Blackwell Institute led initiative to investigate ways to improve mental health and wellbeing for young people, with a strong focus on university students. Establishing this pro-active network of academic, student, professional and leadership expertise sits within a wider whole-university approach outlined within the Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy. As a research-intensive institution, Bristol is well placed to develop evidence-based strategies to support student mental health and wellbeing. One of the core objectives of this initiative will be to bring together experts in mental health and wellbeing to deliver high quality research in this area.

Why is this so important now?

The treatment of mental ill-health, the protection of mental health, and promotion of wellbeing has always been important. I think one of the biggest changes over time has been that we now have a much louder and more public discussion around mental health, and as a result some reduction in the stigma surrounding the topic.

Approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, and around 75% of adults with mental difficulties first experience symptoms before the age of 25. As a result, it is important for numerous sectors including higher education to understand the experiences of young people, and the pressures they face.

This initiative and your research are all about collaboration, why do you think this is so important?

Good collaborations incubate creative thought and facilitate shared problem solving. My fellowship uniquely draws on expertise and support from both Bristol Medical School and the School of Education - departments with highly complementary expertise. In the wider context of student mental health, a truly collaborative approach needs to engage groups outside of the university, including the NHS, the third sector, and community organisations across the city. A collaborative approach acknowledges the need to draw on the diverse range of experts with an interest in the topic. I’m really keen to create spaces where experts across disciplinary boundaries can connect and work together.

What are you hoping your research will achieve?

Academically, I want to advance our shared understanding of mental health among young people, with a specific focus on furthering our understanding of the mental health challenges unique to the context of higher education. At a local level, my research aims to generate evidence that can guide data-driven policy and practice within the University of Bristol. In the longer term, my objective is to develop cross-institutional partnerships to foster the exchange of knowledge and expertise across the sector. Ultimately, I want to undertake research that can inform practices that improve the experience of people at university.

So, when do you start?

I officially started on 22 July this year, and my fellowship is funded until 2023.

About Elizabeth Blackwell Institute

Elizabeth Blackwell Institute’s vision is to improve people’s health by advancing research. Our mission is to drive innovation in health research by nurturing novel ideas. We help novel ideas thrive by bringing people together from different research backgrounds, encouraging collaborative working.

Elizabeth Blackwell Institute shares the University-wide commitment to improve young people’s mental health and wellbeing, with the initiative reflecting the cross-disciplinary and whole-University nature of the challenges and issues to be addressed.

The Elizabeth Blackwell Institute Vice Chancellor's Fellowship is funded philanthropically by alumni and friends of the University.

Further information

Find out more about the Mental Health in Young People research initiative.

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