Expert opinion gets academics into government reports

Date 28.04.2021

Academics at the University got a welcome surprise recently when their submissions for expert evidence made their way into government reports.

Sharon Smith, Associate Professor and Emma Whewell, Programme Lead for the Physical Education and Sport Degree (BA) made contributions to The Covid Generation: A Mental Health Pandemic in the Making.

Sharon submitted evidence about global mental health issues and adverse long-term psychological effects on children as a result of quarantine or bereavement due to Covid-19.

Emma’s expert opinion concerned the impact of Covid-19 policies on children with a disability or those from culturally and ethnically diverse and socioeconomically deprived communities.

Commenting on the final submissions, Sharon said: “This report on the current crisis in mental health of children and young people stresses the importance of acting now to prevent serious crisis in future.

“It draws together the evidence and voice of our young people on how Covid has impacted their mental wellbeing and highlights the diverse range of experiences they have encountered, giving the ‘Covid generation’ a voice. It has been said that childhood lasts a lifetime, so Emma and I are both more than pleased to have contributed.”

The report makes a number of recommendations, including funding that is ring-fenced for children and young people’s mental health; a revision of children’s and adolescent mental health services and a national strategy to support mental wellness and psychological wellbeing throughout our lives.

The Psychology team’s Dr Charlotte Dann also saw her insight make its way into the Women and Equalities Committee report ‘Changing the Perfect Picture: an inquiry into body image’.

The report found that the Government’s approach to eating disorders and tackling poor body image are potentially harmful.

Charlotte’s research centres around women, and women’s bodies, with a specific focus towards tattoos.

Although the report was not focused on tattoos, her submissions looked at the various ways the supposedly ‘ideal’ body image for women is constructed. For instance, how celebrity women are portrayed by the media and then can be viewed by members of the public (i.e. looking less feminine/ideal and more ‘working class’).

Charlotte said: “It’s great to see that, not only are my findings on one area of this important topic available, but the research from many other professionals to build up a full picture of how we can better support how women see themselves and their physical and mental health, irrespective of their outward appearance.”

This report’s recommendations include an independent review of the Obesity Strategy; to restrict and even ban the use of altered images in advertisements and fund research into eating disorders.