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Veronica Heney

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Sociology
Co-Lead of Narrative Practices Lab in DRP-MH in the Institute for Medical Humanities


I am an interdisciplinary medical humanities researcher, bringing together social science and literary studies methods to explore narratives and experiences of madness and mental distress. I am currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Medical Humanities where I am studying anxiety. In particular, I am interested in how anxiety is depicted in fiction, how these depictions are understood and assessed by people with experience of anxiety, and how anxiety might impact practices of reading and viewing fiction. This work emerges out of my PhD, which explored cultural representations of self-harm in literature, film, and television.
Throughout my work I use an interdisciplinary method to re-centre lived experience of madness and mental distress within questions of literary analysis and interpretation. Through this I explore broader questions of the relationship between the social and the cultural, the role of fictional texts in constructions of subjectivity, and the tension between personal sense-making and broader structural formations of meaning. Blending sociological discourse analysis and literary close reading I connect literary questions of genre, form, voice and narrative structure to sociological questions of identity, experience and chronicity. A short introduction to my research and the topic of narratives of self-harm, originally presented at a Time to Change event held on World Mental Health Day, can be viewed here: 
I am committed to critical and innovative interventions in the Medical Humanities in order to ensure that research on mental health is conducted in ways that are accessible, collaborative, and experience-led. In my research I work closely with an advisory group of people with lived experience, who collaboratively discuss and make decisions about methods, research questions, and research practices. I have also been involved with other community-based work, for instance organising events with Time to Change and their Young Champions. I am a member of the Cost of Living blog editorial collective, and have also written for a number of other non-academic publications. In collaboration with Self-Injury Support I edited a zine featuring creative work by people with experience of self-harm, which can be found here: 
Blogs and Book Reviews
Heney, V and Sommer, C - Help-Seeking: where's the help?, Cost of Living Blog (September 2021) Help-seeking: where’s the help? (
Heney, V – Shame and Self-Harm: Association and Avoidance, Shame and Medicine Blog (January 2021)
Make Space Collective – Making Space for Self-Harm, The Polyphony (November 2020), V. – Self-Harm: Response and Reaction, Cost of Living Blog (November 2020)
Heney, V. – Refusing Resolution: Narratives of Self-harm, The Polyphony (November 2019)
Heney, V. – Book Review: Why Do We Hurt Ourselves?: Understanding Self-harm in Social Life and Self-injury, Medicine and Society: Authentic Bodies, The Sociological Review (April 2019)
Heney, V. – The Interpretive Difficulties of Self-Harm in “Sharp Objects” Cost of Living Blog (October 2018)
Make Space
In April 2020 I co-founded Make Space, a user-led collective which facilitates conversations about more generous, nuanced, and caring ways to support those with experience of self-harm. We have run a range of online events for a variety of stakeholders, including the 2020 Exeter Phoenix Bloom Festival and the Newcastle Psychology Society, and worked in partnership with the National Survivor Users Network and Action to Prevent Suicide. We also facilitate peer spaces and have run a series of peer-led creative workshops around LGBTQ+ self-harm. You can find out more about our work on our website:
You can watch a panel discussion we facilitated around LGBTQ+ self-harm here: 

Supervision students