Explore our research

  • Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing

    Counselling session

The Centre for Mental Health, led by Professor Joy Duxbury, carries out a programme of research across a number of key themes:

  • Liberty, coercion and psychiatric practice
  • Participation and social inclusion
  • Philosophy and mental health
  • Wellbeing across the lifespan
  • Arts and mental health

Whilst theoretically and philosophically informed, much of our research has direct implications for practice. We particularly focus upon the development of therapeutic interventions and roles and relationships that promote good service delivery and partnership working. We examine the development and evaluation of new ways of working and different approaches to care at the same time reflecting on complexities at the heart of mental healthcare systems. Our work drives both policy and practice in our areas of expertise. Service user involvement straddles each of these themes and drives much of our research.

This research group contributes to the cross-disciplinary research sub-theme: Evidence for Societal Change.

Expertise and Subject Areas

Liberty, coercion and mental health practice

Our research into liberty and coercion in mental health practice takes the pursuit of social justice for patients in institutional mental health settings as its regulative ideal. It examines competing views of therapeutic relations and approaches to care that can facilitate or undermine positive outcomes. The ambition is to both inform and facilitate positive organisational, cultural and practical change for inpatient mental health care and practice.

Research in this area has three main subsidiary themes:

  • Perspectives on aggression and violence
  • Coercive strategies in inpatient mental health services
  • Medication management

Combined, they reflect an interest in social justice and patient safety in mental health

A substantial part of our research explores conflicting perspectives on the causes and management of patient aggression. This has resulted in the development by Joy Duxbury of an attitude scale to explore and compare perspectives. The Management of Aggression and Violence Attitude Scale (MAVAS) was published in 2003 and has since been translated into a number of languages. It has also been revised to be used in varied specialist settings including forensics, older people and the general hospital setting.

We aim to find ways to successfully reduce the use of coercive practices such as seclusion and restraint and instead to prevent aggression and violence through organisational models to facilitate cultural and practical change. Together with external partners, we have been funded by the Ministry of Justice to review the medical theories of restraint related deaths in the UK.

Medication management from a nursing perspective remains under-researched in the UK. In line with patient safety and in the pursuit of promoting positive interpersonal relationships between staff and patients , we have researched medication rounds and explored associated decision making strategies.

For further work in this area contact Joy Duxbury on  

Philosophy and Mental Health

Because of its very nature, mental health care raises as many conceptual questions as empirical ones. What is the nature of mental illness? Is it an essentially evaluative notion and if so what is the relation between mental healthcare and Evidence Based Medicine? How does it impact on the relation of mind and body? Is recovery a distinct approach?

The philosophy of mental health - also called the 'new philosophy of psychiatry' although it is not narrowly psychiatric - is a rapidly developing field developed by philosophers, clinicians (e.g. psychiatrists and mental health nurses) and mental health service users.

Unlike some areas of philosophy, philosophy of psychiatry can have a genuine impact on practice. It is a philosophy of, and for, mental health care. It provides tools for critical understanding of contemporary practices, and of the assumptions on which mental health care more broadly, and psychiatry more narrowly, are based. Thus it is not merely an abstract area of thought and research, of interest only to academics. In providing a deeper, clearer understanding of the concepts, principles and values inherent in everyday thinking about mental health, psychiatric diagnoses and the theoretical drivers of mental health policy, it can impact directly on the lives of people involved in all aspects of mental health care.

UCLan has a longstanding expertise in both research and teaching the philosophy of mental health. We have published single and multi-authored papers on understanding, person centred care, clinical judgement, values based practice, the recovery model etc.

For further work in this area contact Tim Thornton on  

Participation and social inclusion

The School of Health has a longstanding commitment to significant and authentic inclusion of service users and carers in all of its research work. This adds to the quality of our research and also helps to support an ethos of research-informed teaching.

Service user involvement is co-ordinated by Comensus: a user and carer led initiative that spans various schools in the university but based in the School of Health. It was initially designed as a participatory action research study and is thoroughly grounded in community engagement practices.

Comensus is able to call upon upwards of 200 community members who exemplify numerous aspects of diversity and different health conditions and is affiliated to a full range of local community and voluntary sector groups located in the hinterland of the university. More recently, some large-scale national projects have allowed for the recruitment of service users from around the country into research roles.

The involvement of individuals and groups includes significant contributions to research activity and strategic decision making on such matters as disability and access. Associated pedagogical involvement extends to planning and validation of curricula, delivery of teaching and evaluation of the impact of such teaching.

Service user involvement in research includes providing consultancy or oversight to research projects of various methodologies and focus developed by academic staff and some projects that have been conceived of and initiated by service users and carers themselves. Involvement extends to all aspects of the research process, from planning and bid writing, to participation in data collection and analysis, to writing for publication. There is a keen interest on the part of service users and carers in participatory and real world methodologies and a desire that all of our research has some value to progressive aspirations for practice change.

For further work in this area contact Mick McKeown on  

Wellbeing across the lifespan

This programme of work focuses on the prevention of mental health issues and the links between physical and mental health. Many factors are known to lead to poor mental health, including socio-economic factors, childhood experience, abuse and lifestyle issues and this programme of work is concerned with understanding these links and identifying the action, at a policy and practice to address them.

We can offer:

  • Research into aspects of mental wellbeing
  • Evaluation of initiatives and policies to promote mental wellbeing
  • Critical policy analysis
  • Bespoke programmes for commissioning for mental wellbeing
  • Consultancy and service development in this area

For further information in this area contact Karen Newbigging at

Arts and Mental Health

We have a strong research interest in engaging and supporting people with mental health difficulties through the arts, in designing and planning environments that support wellbeing, in helping staff better understand, measure and reflect on this side of their practice, in evaluating the value of arts and other engaging techniques in innovative healthcare practice within the therapeutic milleu. The school has a number of experts at the forefront of research in this area and encourages interdisciplinary work. PhD students are supported by national and international links

For further work in this area contact Sue Hacking on  

Dissemination and knowledge translation

Dissemination of knowledge, not only to fellow professionals through journal and conference papers but also to and with service users and carers through workshops, posters and other mechanisms, is core to our approach.

Each of us additionally contributes to our own specific fields through Editorships, society memberships, guideline development and service on national and international and committees.


Development of commissioning guidance for health and local authority commissioners.

  • Newbigging, K. & Heginbotham, C. (2010) Commissioning Mental Wellbeing for All. A toolkit for commissioners.
  • Newbigging, K. & Heginbotham, C. (2010) Commissioning population mental health and well-being. National Mental Health Development Unit: Preston.

An investigation of how different communicates conceptualise mental wellbeing.

Our philosophers co-hosted with ENUSP (the European Network of (ex-) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry) the 2010 INPP (International Network of Philosophy and Psychiatry) conference, the first time that that conference has been held in the UK.

Our philosophers led on the Oxford Textbook of Philosophy and Psychiatry.

We run the world’s only distance learning programme in Philosophy and Mental Health.

Our scales our used worldwide: Duxbury J (2003) The Management of Aggression and Violence Attitude Scale (MAVAS) Nurse Researcher, 10(4), pp. 39-52.

We completed a review on restraint for the Government; Aiken F, Duxbury J & Dale C (2011) A Review of the Medical Theories on Restraint Related Deaths in the UK; A Report for the Ministry of Justice, London.

Publications and Outputs

Duxbury J, Pulsford D, Hadi M & Sykes S (In press) Staff and relatives perspectives on the aggressive behaviour of older people with dementia in residential care: a qualitative study. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing (available online: DOI: 10.1111/jpm.12018)

Gerdtz, M, F, Daniel C, Dearie V, Prematunga R, Bamert M & Duxbury J (In press) The outcome of a rapid training program on nurses’ attitudes regarding the prevention of aggression in emergency departments: A multi-site evaluation. Int. J. Nurs. Stud. (2013),

Pulsford D, Crumpton A, Baker A, Wilkins T, Wright K & Duxbury J (2013) Aggression in a High Secure Hospital: Staff and Patient Attitudes. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing 20(4): 296-304

Duxbury J, Aiken F & Dale C (2011) Deaths in custody; the role of restraint. Journal of Learning Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, 2 (4), 178-190 

Scoping exercise of end of life care education and training for health and social care staff in the North West

Review of the Medical Theories and Research Relating to Restraint Related Deaths

Events and News

The challenge of clinical aggression in healthcare settings distinguished visitor event
Monday 21st October 2013, 5:00—7:30pm
Scholars restaurant

International Research Conference on recovery 9th October 2013.

Courses and Postgraduate Study

Our postgraduate research degree students experience high quality team supervision that is tailored to meet their individual needs throughout their studies. Students enhance their transferable skills and publish papers en route to successful completion of their target awards (see teaching profiles for an overview of successful students).

Currently we have 10 students undertaking mental health-aligned studies and all are making excellent progress with their research.