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Wolfson Institute of Population Health

Youth Resilience Unit LISS-DTP Studentship

Studentship project title: Helping young people to bounce back from anxiety and depression: Leveraging social support networks in the local community


Non-HEI Partner: Public Health team, London Borough of Newham


Supervisor: Professor Jennifer Lau


Application Deadline: 01 March 2022


**Only applications for full-time study will be considered**


Background to the project

Anxiety and depression are common and disabling in young people, and the continued uncertainty about the future over the course of the pandemic may continue to increase these cases. Helping young people with mental distress is an urgent UK government priority to improve the health and wellbeing of the nation. However, young people with emotional difficulties can struggle with accessing mental health support. Helping young people to connect with other people through their local community may reflect an alternative pathway to support these young people. Exemplifying this, social prescribing schemes offer a range of activities tailored to the needs and preferences of individuals and families, and barriers to engagement. Importantly, social prescribing may offer opportunities to connect with members of the community, including other young people in a safe and structured environment. Yet, despite the potential of social prescribing, there are few frameworks for understanding the mechanisms by which these schemes work for young people, and a paucity of data on their feasibility, acceptability, and potential in reducing symptoms and improving wellbeing in youth with anxiety/depression.


We will address these gaps by working with community organisations and young people participating in the Multi-Agency Collective (MAC) project coordinated by the HeadStart team in the London Borough of Newham on three sets of Research Questions (RQ):

(1) What does social prescribing – the allocation of young people with anxiety and depression to community organisations – involve and what are the proposed active ingredients mediating their benefits?

(2) Are social prescribing efforts feasible and acceptable?

(3) Do social prescribing efforts carry clinical promise in reducing youth mental distress and improvement in wellbeing?


What the studentship will encompass

Some critical aspects of the project include, but are not limited to:

-Running focus groups of community organisation representatives and link workers

-Creating a topic guide to guide discussion and explore commonalities and differences in practice.

-Develop a shared framework for understanding the extent to which social prescribing works through access to social support and connectedness.

-Data collection for a series of young people enrolled to the MAC to assess the feasibility and acceptability of social prescribing.

-Administering a feedback questionnaire to young people to assess acceptability.

-Weekly survey a subset of young people on anxiety/depression symptoms and wellbeing to assess the potential to reduce mental distress.

-Analysis and modelling of these data to determine the proportion of young people in our sample whose symptoms improve over the course of the intervention.


The studentship will be embedded within the Youth Resilience Unit (YRU) at Queen Mary University of London, working closely with the East London NHS Foundation Trust and project partner Public Health team, London Borough of Newham.


Studies run in collaboration with the YRU all closely involve patients and the public, and the Wolfson Institute of Population Health, which hosts YRU, has a Public Advisory Panel representing the social, cultural and ethnic diversity of East London. The student will have opportunities to explore how patient and public involvement could add value to their project.


Candidates should have a good first degree in a related subject such as psychology or psychiatry. A Masters degree in a relevant is preferred but not compulsory (see notes on 1+3 vs +3 programmes below).


ESRC Core Training Requirements (+3 studentships):

If you are applying for this studentship as a +3 (PhD only) it is important that you establish whether you have covered at least three of the four major ESRC core research methods areas - social theory, qualitative methods, quantitative methods, and research design – in level 7 (Master’s) modules. In some cases, we can consider professional experience, but this is in conjunction with a master’s degree rather than a substitute. You can see more details regarding these ESRC’s core research training areas here:


ESRC Core Training Requirements (1+3 Studentships):

If you are applying for this studentship as a 1+3 (Masters and PhD) then you should select and justify your choice of Masters programme pathway in your Personal Statement.

A list of Masters programmes and the relevant pathways can be found here:


How to apply

You are applying for a PhD studentship from the London Interdisciplinary Social Science

Doctoral Training Partnership (LISS DTP) to be hosted at Queen Mary University of London.


Your application package must comprise:

(1) Completed ESRC CASE Application Form 2 [DOC 128KB]. Incomplete forms will not be considered.

(2) CV (2pgs max)

(3) Personal statement (1pg max) – this document should include: why you are interested in undertaking this project; what relevant existing skills, training, and knowledge you would bring to the project; selection/justification of Masters programme and pathway (if applying for 1+3).

When applying, you must also complete the LISS DTP Diversity Monitoring Form for CASE Candidates 2022 Entry. This information should not be included in the application package and will not be seen by those assessing your application. Complete the form here:


The deadline for applications is 11:59pm (GMT) 01 March 2022. Late applications will not be considered.


Completed application packages must be returned to:


Informal enquiries may be made to Dr Caitlin Aspinall at


Funding Notes

Studentships are funded by LISS-DTP/ESRC for 3 years (+3 PhD only programme) or for 4 years (1+3 programme). Funding will cover tuition fees at the UK home rate only and stipend (to include London Weighting where appropriate).  The student stipend for 2021/2022 is £17,609 (Full Time only).

** If you are considered an overseas student for fee purposes, you are welcome to apply for this studentship. As part of your application, you will need to also apply to receive an International Doctoral Scholar Award (funded by Queen Mary) which fully funds the difference between the UKRI Home Tuition Fee and International Fee. If your International Doctoral Scholar Award application is not successful, your PhD application will automatically be rejected**

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