PROJECT – Students

Fictional Representations of Self-Harm

30 October 2019

PhD Project: Interview Study


Do you have experience of self-harm? Would you consider being interviewed about your views on fictional representations of self-harm?

This project takes as its starting point the possibility that fictional representations in some way may impact the conversations that it is possible to have around self-harm. It works from the belief that the way we talk about self-harm matters, because such conversations can influence, positively or negatively, the experience and lives of people who self-harm.


About the Project

Despite efforts to reduce stigma around self-harm, people who self-harm rarely seek help or support. Research into young people who self-harm suggests that they are more likely to initially approach informal contacts rather than to disclose to a medical practitioner. Talking about self-harming to friends, parents, teachers, colleagues, or partners can be an important step in the process of accessing support or help. But it is possible that this could be made more difficult by the lack of available representations of self-harm.

The project aims to examine existing fictional representations of self-harm and to explore how these might or might not impact disclosure and help-seeking, and if so in what ways. The results from the project will form the basis for a PhD thesis, and also for papers, presentations, and other work on the topic of representations of self-harm. This work may contribute to public policy and advocacy in a number of areas.

This project was originally designed as a result of the primary researcher’s own experiences of self-harm, and the design has been further refined in consultation with an advisory group made up of individuals with experience of self-harm.

What would taking part involve?

Taking part in the research involves participating in an interview on the topic of fictional representations of self-harm. The interview will be conducted by Veronica, whose own experiences of self-harm provided the original idea for the research. The interview will probably last between 1-2 hours. The interview would take place in a location of your choosing, such as in a café, a library, an office, or in your home; if you would like the researcher to arrange a space or a room for the interview then this will be arranged. As far as possible the researcher will travel to you, to ensure that you are not inconvenienced.

If you prefer not to be interviewed in person, then it will be possible to conduct the interview via skype or via the telephone. If you find verbal communication difficult then you may request to submit written responses, to ensure that your perspectives can still be included in the research.

The interview will probably involve discussion of:

  • What fictional representations you are aware of or have consumed
  • Whether they were important to you and if so in what ways
  • Whether you enjoyed them or not
  • Whether they had any impact on your experiences or understandings of self-harm
  • How you think existing fictional representations might be improved

Will participants receive any payment for taking part?

All participants will be compensated for their time, as a reflection of their expertise and your vital role as co-creators of research knowledge. As an indication of the equal value placed upon the time of all contributors in the research process, participants will be compensated in line with the primary researcher’s most recent paid employment (as a Research Assistant). Therefore, all participants will be offered compensation for their time at the rate of £15.25 per hour. Payment will be made in cash or in the form of a voucher; participants can choose whichever form is more convenient.

Participants will also be compensated for all expenses incurred by participating in this study: this includes travel expenses (which can be booked on participants’ behalf in advance, rather than claimed back subsequently), childcare expenses, and the expenses for an accompanying adult if this would be helpful for travel purposes.

How to find out more?

If you are interested in being interviewed as part of this project and would like to find out some more about the project, and what the interview might involve, you can read the information sheet below.

Participant Information Sheet – Detailed

Participant Information Sheet – Easy Read

Alternatively if you have any questions, concerns, or would like to set up an interview please do contact Veronica Heney either by email ( or on twitter (@VeronicaHeney).

PROJECT – Students

Virtual Nature

4 June 2019

Virtual Nature is a project exploring how digital experiences of the natural world can impact health and wellbeing. Led by Alex Smalley, it is investigating how nature, culture and technology can combine to enhance psychological health.

Research has shown that spending time in natural environments can boost physical and mental health. For many people however—such as those in long term care, with a physical disability or in densely urban areas—regular contact with nature can be difficult to achieve.

New advances in digital technology provide an opportunity to overcome these barriers, bringing ‘nature’ to people who cannot otherwise access it. This study is examining how people feel about these experiences, how they affect wellbeing, and how they might be used in real-world situations.

Full project details can be found at


Forest 404

The first part of this research partnered with the BBC to create Forest 404, a groundbreaking podcast series and experiment examining reactions to natural soundscapes. Over 7,600 people took part in the study, and the wider project won several broadcast awards for its novel transdisciplinary approach. More details on the series can be found at and an overview of the academic component can be found at


Memorable moments

The second focus of the project was on the importance of fleeting and personal experiences in nature. Over 3,000 people responded to an online experiment exploring the restorative potential of ‘memorable moments’ such as sunsets, rainbows and storms. Alex used the latest digital techniques to create these scenes, which can be viewed at

The third part of this research is currently in development. It is an exciting new collaboration with BBC Music, bringing together the findings from stages one and two in an experiment designed to probe emotional reactions to several rich digital nature experiences. More details will be available in January 2021, when the project launches.



The outcomes of this work will also feed into therapeutic interventions designed to reach those who cannot access ‘real’ natural environments.

A first example of this impact was Mindful Escapes, a unique collaborative series between BBC Four and Headspace. Alex was scientific consultant on this series, helping to underpin the programme with the latest academic findings.

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