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Jerome Carson’s Expression of Interest

I have been researching the field of occupational stress in mental health professionals for several years. With others I have conducted several large stress surveys and also designed and carried out two small randomised controlled trials. This research has had a very negative focus. We have tended to look at the percentage of staff experiencing burnout, the numbers who might be seen as “psychiatric cases” given the severity of their scores on questionnaires, such as the “misnamed” General Health Questionnaire. This is really a measure of “psychiatric caseness.” Having developed an interest in Positive Psychology and wellbeing in recent years, I think this calls for a paradigm shift in occupational stress research in mental health. Concepts such as resilience and recovery, may have as much to offer mental health professionals as they do for people who use mental health services. Working with psychiatric problems can be inherently stressful. Personally, part of my own decision to take early retirement was that I was becoming burned out myself, even though I was engaged in pioneering work around mental health recovery. Patient suicide and attempted suicide and an increasing workload caused me particular stress. Along with Professor Bill Ollivier, we have discussed trying to use our own University here at Bolton as a “laboratory” for studying occupational stress and its alleviation through the use of Positive Psychology and other interventions. Thus far we have not succeeded in getting this approach established and maybe it can only really be attempted in an external academic setting.

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