Pilot Workshop – Dental & Mental Health in Young People

This afternoon I took part in a pilot workshop for a research project at Queen Mary University of London’s Institute of Dentistry. It seeks to explore needs and set research priorities for dental health services, focusing on young adults with depression.

I discovered the opportunity through TRIUMPH, which is a transdisciplinary network aiming to improve youth mental public health, based at the University of Glasgow.

The National Survivor User Network (NSUN) email newsletter is also a great place to find opportunities like this. I would recommend signing up with these networks if you want to find out about current research and lived experience opportunities related to trauma and mental health.

Whilst I was outside the criteria of young people aged 18-25 – I have just turned 31 – I emailed the lead researcher anyway. Accessing dental healthcare can be impacted by complex trauma, and I can see how my own lived experiences have made it hard for me to look after my dental health.

I’ve wanted to talk about this subject for a while, so this seems like a great way to have my voice heard and see if there is further potential to be involved as a lived experience expert.

In the end I was welcome to contribute, and took part in an hour-long workshop with the lead researcher, Dr Easter Joury. We were joined by another service user whose lived experience was also valued.

I focused primarily on talking about what a trauma-informed approach is, and how this is relevant to dental healthcare.

I explained how a trauma-informed model of mental health explains depression as a symptom of misdiagnosed and unprocessed complex trauma. Therefore, many people would benefit from a trauma-informed approach to healthcare like this, including young people with depression.

I talked about how people with lived experience of complex trauma need specific trauma-informed care, especially in settings like dental healthcare.

I also shared my insights into the wording and language used in research questions, and suggested further questions which need researching from this trauma-informed lens.

“This was one of the most productive workshops ever – it really shows the value of lived experience. You are the expert, not us. Thank you!”

Dr Joury’s comments at the end of the session

It feels great to be valued like this, and to have the potential to really shape the kind of research which will impact people’s lives for the better. I hope there will be the chance to be involved as a lived experience expert as this research project develops, because trauma-informed dental care is definitely something I’m keen to raise awareness of.

I also think it’s important that research participants are valued for their time spent in workshops like these. I will earn a £20 voucher for my time, and was given a range of choices for this, which I appreciate.

If the researchers want to embed lived experience into the next stages of their project, the INVOLVE lived experience/co-production guidelines are a great framework. In recognition of the great value we can bring to projects, this also includes payment for our work – the only way we can sustainably and fairly continue to progress towards the change we need.

Thanks for the opportunity Dr Joury, and I hope I can continue to be involved as your much-needed research project evolves.

P.S. And a bonus outcome for me – I was empowered to book a dentist appointment for the first time in many years!

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