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Leading UK Researcher to Head Magee's Bamford Centre for Mental Health

28 August 2012

Professor Gerry Leavey

Professor Gerry Leavey has been appointed Professor of Mental Health and Wellbeing, and Director of the Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing at the University of Ulster.

The Bamford Centre is based at Ulster’s Magee campus in Derry~Londonderry.

Professor Leavey, who takes up his new post on 1 September, is currently Director of Research at the Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health, where he has been leading the development of mental health research in Northern Ireland.

Originally from Belfast, Professor Leavey holds a master’s degree and a doctorate from the University of London – and prior to returning to Northern Irelandhe held several senior posts in health trusts in London.

His research focuses on access to and acceptability of mental health services and his work has been published in several leading journals, including the British Medical Journal, the British Journal of Psychiatry, Transcultural Psychiatry, the Journal of Mental Health, and Social Science and Medicine.

Professor Leavey said: “My vision for the Bamford Centre is primarily to help improve the patient experience for mental health service users and their families in Northern Ireland. We will do this by working closely with the voluntary sector and having more engagement with services users and their carers.

“Our research will be Health Service oriented, it will be about the patient experience, improving services, and we will work with Trusts, clinicians, families, and of course with patients – developing research that is appropriate to their needs.”

Professor Leavey is currently working on several research projects. He is exploring issues around suicide in Northern Ireland, comparing the quality of support services in both urban and rural settings for people at risk, and looking at the kinds of services available to the families who are left behind.

In a second project, Professor Leavey is looking at the transition from child and adolescent mental health services to adult mental health services.

“Children who have developed mental health problems and who have gone through the system are suddenly, at the age of 18, cast into an adult mental health world that doesn’t really know how to look after them. There isn’t a smooth transition, it’s simply a break –and it’s a big problem for young people and their families,” he said.

“We are trying to understand how these services can be improved – we are looking at this from multiple perspectives, from the perspective of the clinician, the families themselves, the young people. Also, it is important to note that the five Trusts across Northern Ireland all have their own systems – we are trying to see how these might be standardised and streamlined to fit the appropriate circumstances, and we’re working with researchers in other parts of the UK and from the Republic of Ireland who have carried out similar studies.”

Professor Leavey is also collaborating with academics at University College London in a £1.7m research project investigating the quality and effectiveness of supported tenancies for people with mental health problems.

He said: “There is a lot of synergy in bringing these collaborative relationships into the work that we are going to do at the Bamford Centre. Collaboration is the central and unifying theme of what we aim to do at the Bamford Centre.“

It is all about bringing people from different disciplines and backgrounds together, and linking them with people from the clinical and medical world to improve services for patients and their families.”

Professor Leavey takes over as Director of the Bamford Centre from Professor Brendan Bunting, who is continuing to work at the University in a part-time capacity.