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How research can change lives

The Academy's Research Team first collaborated with Dr Simon Gilbody and Dr Emily Peckham at the University of York's Department of Health Sciences in 2016, when we supported their mental health study SCIMITAR and also supported the three year follow up study to track participant progress. This study was aimed at supporting people with a diagnosis of serious mental illness to quit smoking and to explore the cost effectiveness of a specialist smoking cessation package.

It was based upon previous research highlighting the significant health disparities of this group of people against the general population, and aimed to dispel the myth that those with serious mental health difficulties did not have the desire to quit smoking, and were less likely to succeed as a result. Several of our service users chose to take part (many of whom had smoked heavily for years) and were successfully in quitting, with many still not smoking when we had their three year follow up.

We went on to support the University of York's Lifestyle Health and Wellbeing Survey from 2017 to 2019. This aimed to provide a benchmark for health and lifestyle behaviours of people with serious mental illness, and to compare these responses to those of people in the general population.

Additionally, in 2020 we were asked to join forces with the team again to support their new Optimising Wellbeing in Self-Isolation (OWLS) study. Whilst there have been a number of COVID-19 related studies over the past year, these haven't really been that successful in reaching people with serious mental illness. The OWLS survey is specifically aimed at understanding how those with mental illness have been able to use digital technology to stay connected and access health service, as well as what their health behaviours have been more generally during, and as a result of, the pandemic.

This study resulted in a paper being published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, which can be viewed in full on the Cambridge University Press website. The findings were featured in point 112 of a recent House of Lords Covid Committee report.

Our thanks go to all of our study participants and also to the Solent staff (particularly those working in the Mental Health Recovery Teams), who supported and enabled their service users to participate in this valuable research.

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