culture + environment creating health + wellbeing engaged research

Veronica Heney

PhD Student

About me

Following an English and History BA at the University of Oxford, I worked from 2015-2017 in the Social Sciences Applied to Healthcare Improvement Research group (SAPPHIRE) at the University of Leicester as a Communications and Academic Writing Assistant, and also took on a role helping the Department of Health Sciences complete an Athena SWAN application. While in Leicester I also held a volunteer role as a communications assistant for Pride Without Borders, a group which provides support for local LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. I completed my Gender Studies MA at the University of Sussex in September 2018, which included dissertation research taking an interdisciplinary approach to gendered medical professionalism. During my time at Sussex I was also fortunate to work with Dr Catherine Will on an engagement project around statins and decision-making and to work with the university’s I Heart Consent Campaign, delivering consent workshops to students..


My research

Self-harm is very common within the population, but is only rarely represented in fictional media such as novels, television, and films. Moreover, within those representations that are available, the presentation of self-harm is often stereotypical or limited. This makes the topic of and narratives about self-harm a particularly interesting and important site for the study of the relationship between stories and experiences. My doctoral research examines which cultural representations of self-harm in literature, film, and television are currently available to people in the UK who self-harm, and how those individuals experience or understand those representations, particularly in relation to their own self-harm and how they might discuss their self-harm. I particularly explore how these representations and their interpretation are impacted by gender, race, class, and sexuality.

These questions are explored through both qualitative data and close reading of fictional texts. I conducted in-depth interviews with 17 people with experience of self-harm, discussing representations of self-harm they had encountered, and how they felt about and understood those texts. The project’s research questions, methods, and analysis have been agreed upon in discussion with an advisory group made up of people with experience of self-harm, exploring how co-production and engaged research might be relevant within Literary Studies.

In September 2019 I discussed my research and the topic of narratives of self-harm at a Time to Change event held on World Mental Health Day. If you’re interested in my research you can watch the presentation back here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3b06XaEmKA

Make Space

In April 2020 I co-founded Make Space, a user-led collective which facilitates conversations about more generous, nuanced, and caring ways to support those with experience of self-harm. We have run a range of online events for a variety of stakeholders, including the 2020 Exeter Phoenix Bloom Festival and the Newcastle Psychology Society, and worked in partnership with the National Survivor Users Network and Action to Prevent Suicide. We also facilitate peer spaces and have run a series of peer-led creative workshops around LGBTQ+ self-harm. You can find out more about our work on our website: https://www.makespaceco.org/.

You can watch a panel discussion we facilitated around LGBTQ+ self-harm here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEO07HMxlBg&t=3118s.

Peer-reviewed Publications

Heney, Veronica (2020). Unending and uncertain: thinking through a phenomenological consideration of self-harm towards a feminist understanding of embodied agency. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 21(3), 7-21. Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol21/iss3/2 
Dixon-Woods, M., Campbell, A., Chang, T. et al. (2020) A qualitative study of design stakeholders’ views of developing and implementing a registry-based learning health system. Implementation Sci 15, 16. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13012-020-0976-1

Blogs and Book Reviews

Heney, V – Shame and Self-Harm: Association and Avoidance, Shame and Medicine Blog (January 2021) https://shameandmedicine.org/shame-and-self-harm-association-and-avoidance/
Make Space Collective – Making Space for Self-Harm, The Polyphony (November 2020) https://thepolyphony.org/2020/11/25/making-space-for-self-harm/
Heney, V. – Self-Harm: Response and Reaction, Cost of Living Blog (November 2020) https://www.cost-ofliving.net/self-harm-response-and-reaction/
Heney, V. – Refusing Resolution: Narratives of Self-harm, The Polyphony (November 2019) https://thepolyphony.org/2019/11/12/refusing-resolution-narratives-of-self-harm/
Heney, V. – Book Review: Why Do We Hurt Ourselves?: Understanding Self-harm in Social Life and Self-injury, Medicine and Society: Authentic Bodies, The Sociological Review (April 2019) https://www.thesociologicalreview.com/book-review-self-injury/
Heney, V. – The Interpretive Difficulties of Self-Harm in “Sharp Objects” Cost of Living Blog (October 2018) https://www.cost-ofliving.net/the-interpretive-difficulties-of-self-harm-in-sharp-objects/


Contact me

Twitter: @VeronicaHeney

Email: vh291@exeter.ac.uk