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OPTIMA on the road - Optima

OPTIMA on the road

In October some of the OPTIMA team attended two conferences that focussed on the importance of patient participation and listening to those with lived experience when researching mental health.

First up was the Big Emerging Minds summit in Oxford. Emerging Minds is a network that “aims to reduce the prevalence of mental health problems experienced by children and young people”. The summit included a variety of workshops and presentations about how we can more effectively listen to the voices of those with mental health needs or those who parent or care for a young person with needs, among other topics. We heard about the importance of engaging hard-to-reach community members and making research involvement as easy as possible for participants. Examples included reducing the need to travel to take part in research and making sure that participants are reimbursed for their time.

As researchers on the OPTIMA team, we work with parents daily who take part in our study, so this is an important message for us! We must consider the needs of participants in everything we do. This is why we actively and regularly engage with our PPI panel (patient and public involvement) to make sure research is done with our participants rather than about them. Our PPI panel helps to ensure our research is accessible to our participants who, after all, are the most important part of our research.

Some of the OPTIMA team who work in Solent (Ellen Hedström and Naomi James), as well as our Trial Manager Kasia Kostyrka-Allchorne, also attended the Solent NHS Academy of Research conference. The academy´s vision is “on leading and delivering progressive community-based research, innovation and improvement that drives better care for everyone”. The audience was a mix of researchers and health professionals but more importantly, members of the public who took an active role in ensuring research into healthcare was a joint venture between professionals and public. We learnt a new word, co-production, which is when researchers and members of the public work alongside each other to ensure research is relevant and effective. We also heard from people who volunteered with the trust, which included getting involved on job interview panels and showing new staff around.

We left these events feeling inspired with lots of thought-provoking ideas on how we can make our research even better by listening to the voices of participants. The Big Emerging Minds summit promised to leave us feeling inspired and motivated with new ideas and perspectives and it certainly did. We were also approached by fellow researchers and parents who were interested in finding out more about the trial and the STEPS app especially.

If you are a participant in the OPTIMA study and have any thoughts or feedback for us, then please get in touch at For more information about Emerging Minds, please click here