Degree student presents research at Royal College of Psychiatrists

HE Case studies - Sarah Shirley

Psychology and Health Studies foundation degree student, Sarah Shirley’s second year research project is set to make a big impact in forensic mental health services. The Chesterfield College University Centre student has been asked to present the findings to NHS England in London, as well as at the Quality Network of Forensic Mental Health Services, based at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, annual forums of medium and low secure mental health units across England and Wales.

Inspired by personal experience and her role as a Family and Friends Representative with the Quality Network, the research explores the lived emotions of family and friends of mental health patients with a criminal background and how the two way relationships can benefit both parties if they are harnessed in the right way.

Sarah hopes the research will ultimately improve the experiences family and friends have by helping service managers to understand how to increase engagement and participation with them. She also hopes her work will help to ensure services designed to support them are following standards and sharing best practice. She believes her research could also help to prevent mental and physical health issues that friends and family can sometimes suffer from as a result of having a loved one in forensic mental health services by identifying the needs early and implementing self-help coping strategies.

Sarah came to college 3 years ago to do an Access to Higher Education course after taking a break from education to raise her 3 children. When she felt that they were a little bit more independent and she knew she could fit studying back into her life, she was keen to get the qualifications she needed to get a career in mental health social work. She says the fact that the course was available on her doorstep has made it possible for her to follow her dreams.

Sarah knew the access course would help her to get the skills she needed before she started the foundation degree.  The work based learning module and work placements in the first and second year of the course, along with her role as a Family and Friends representative have helped her to combine her personal experiences and her new theoretical knowledge to equip herself to launch her career.

After a final year of study, starting in September, to complete her degree Sarah hopes to join the Think Ahead programme. This is a new route into social work, for graduates and those looking for a career change that have the skills and qualities to make a real difference to people with mental health problems. 

Find out more about university level courses on offer at Chesterfield College here.