New Fellow in mental health
30 October 2023
With support from the Prudence Trust, the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute and the Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO) have funded a talented individual to conduct research into mental health in children and young people.
We are delighted to announce that Laura Hull, based in Bristol Medical School, Population Health Sciences, is the successful candidate with her project ‘Supporting neurodivergent young people who camouflage’.
Laura, who has been studying masking in autistic young people for some time, supported by Elizabeth Blackwell Institute, explains: “Neurodivergent children and young people are at particularly high risk of developing anxiety and depression, however interventions to support them are limited and often considered unhelpful.”
A known coping mechanism neurodivergent people use is ‘camouflaging’, the hiding or compensating for neurodivergent characteristics, which has been consistently associated with anxiety and depression in neurodivergent populations, although causal relationships have not yet been established.
Laura explains: “The evidence base for how camouflaging impacts mental health issues for neurodivergent people is still limited, and there has been little research into camouflaging beyond autism. As a result, there are no evidence-based interventions to support neurodivergent young people who camouflage, even though young people and clinicians have expressed a need for support in this area.
Laura said: “I am really excited to start the Prudence Trust/Elizabeth Blackwell Institute Fellowship and to learn more about the impact of camouflaging on neurodivergent young people’s mental health. I’m particularly grateful for the opportunity to learn more about developing interventions that are accessible, useful, and make a meaningful difference in the lives of neurodivergent young people and their families.”
It will be the first time camouflaging is compared between young people with different neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism or ADHD, increasing awareness of camouflaging amongst young people with these conditions and those who support them.
“An outcome of the research will be the first known intervention to support neurodivergent young people who camouflage, which has been requested by young people, parents, and clinicians. I hope that, once the intervention is fully evaluated, it may prevent or reduce the development of anxiety and depression in neurodivergent young people,” Laura explained.
The work will be co-produced with neurodivergent young people, parents, and clinicians.