Read our latest impact case studies from the Department of Psychology.
Durham-based research conducted by Hearing the Voice project is serving to normalise - and thus reduce the distress caused by - hearing voices (or auditory verbal hallucinations; AVH), a highly varied experience with deep significance for people's lives. We achieved impact by improving (1) the treatment of voice-hearing for over 300 people in NHS services in Northern England, via a novel digital therapy manual; (2) psychoeducation and therapeutic information available to voice-hearers, families and carers, through a major new online resource, Understanding Voices (viewed by more than 16,500 people in 2020); and (3) public understanding of AVH and unusual experiences via the award-winning video game, Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice which was developed by Cambridge based game design company Ninja Theory (in collaboration with Psychiatrist Professor Paul Fletcher).
Against a long-term trend of rising suicide rates amongst the prisoner population in England and Wales, Durham-based research has contributed to a marked decrease in Self-Inflicted Deaths (SIDs) and has sustainably halted the previous upward trend. The mechanism of this sustained, life-saving change has been the application of The Harris Review, (published in July 2015), the quantitative research for which was led by Professor Towl. The government's response to this research informed a new programme of national training for frontline staff which was rolled out across England and Wales.
Durham Reading and Exploration (DREX) is a computerised training app for the rehabilitation of brain injury-related visual field defects. Hemianopia (partial blindness for one side of space) is a relatively common consequence of brain injury; approximately one-third of stroke survivors have hemianopia, which means it affects more than 30,000 people in the UK annually, and 5,000,000 people worldwide. Use of the app increases general vision-related functioning and thereby confidence, independence, and quality of life. Through an iterative process involving NHS professionals, patients, and carers we addressed perceived barriers to use, and implemented changes that improved usability. With tablets being a more amenable technology to people with limited technical experience, having a multiplatform app has improved the reach of this vital rehabilitative aid, with DREX currently having more than 2,250 registered users.
A new online training tool developed by the team at the Centre for Neurodiversity and Development within the Department of Psychology is aiming to change understanding and support for pupils who experience Triple-A challenges at school. Triple-A refers to a set of hidden challenges experienced by many autistic and neurodivergent pupils at school, namely with attention, arousal (sensory processing) and anxiety. These are issues that are not easily observable, and thus are often poorly understood. The Triple-A training tool is targeted at education professional and uses research evidence from the team at the Centre for Neurodiversity and Development to change understanding of these issues. It also provides a ‘Triple-A Toolbox’ of practical strategies to support pupils who experience Triple-A at school. This aspect of the training has been developed through collaboration with the Communication and Interaction Team at Durham County Council. Most importantly, the training has been co-designed by autistic people, parents, teachers and educational psychologists, to ensure that the voices and experiences of autistic and neurodivergent people are heard in relation to Triple-A issues. The training launched on the 24th of March 2022.