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The voice of the public

in public mental health.

We are the public involvement team working at the McPin Foundation on the public mental health programme of the NIHR School for Public Health Research. Our role is to bring the voice of the public to public mental health research and our aim is to ensure that what we do on the programme is timely, relevant, and meaningful to people's lived experiences of mental health.



Gillian is passionate about mental health. She combines her lived experience with working in this field.

In 1985, Gillian trained as a Community & Youth Worker (Westhill College, University of Birmingham).

In 1993, due to extremely difficult life events, she suffered clinical depression with psychosis and was hospitalised.

By this time, a single parent with three young children, she faced challenges such as debt, food insecurity, threat of eviction and social isolation.

With the help of social care and legal aid, she was able to make a full recovery and rebuilt her life, gaining employment with Mind in Harrow as Service Manager (1996), where she remained for 17 years. Additionally, she became chair of a mental health advocacy service and a freelance trainer in mental health.

In 2003, Gillian saw an opportunity in property and built a modest portfolio which she still manages today.




Ami has been working with the McPin Foundation as a Peer Researcher for the last year, and has been involved in a number of projects on the Public Mental Health programme run by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR).


Her particular areas of interest are trauma, women’s mental health, and the neurobiology of mental illness. She has helped facilitate several workshops, inform publication policy, review literature, and plan projects. Outside of McPin, she is passionate about science, and having completed a BSc and MSc, she is currently doing a PhD in cardiovascular science with the British Heart Foundation. She spends her spare time reading, drawing, baking, binge-watching tv programmes, and playing with her dog.





Alex has been working for the McPin Foundation since May 2021. Recently, he completed a PhD in Sociology focusing on Otherness and how themes like exclusion, dehumanisation, devaluation, and social rejection are identified in manga (Japanese comic books) -and reflected upon- by readers in the UK. His favourite series is 20th Century Boys.


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Sandra is a former solicitor embarked on her journey as a Patient and Public Involvement  (PPI) contributor following her own lived experiences of poor health. She is an  Improvement Leader Fellow of CLAHRC (Collaborative Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care), now known as NIHR Applied Research Collaboration. She is a peer researcher with the McPin Foundation working on the NIHR SPHR Public Mental Health Research programme. She is a PPI co-applicant for research studies and is the lay chair for Imperial Biomedical Research Center Public Advisory Panel. Sandra strongly believes, although some of us may have the same diagnosis of an illness, our lived experiences of it can be influenced by many factors and these lived experiences are pivotal in the design of any health care services and research


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Vanessa is the co-founder and research director at the McPin Foundation. She has over 25 years of working in mental health research. Vanessa’s contribution began in 2017 attending a sandpit event at UCL with public health experts, academics, mental health service users and carers to explore different ideas for where the programme should focus. McPin joined the collaboration with eight UK Universities as a partner within the public mental health research programme in 2018, under Vanessa’s leadership. Her role is now far less prominent being involved in supporting the team and in particular the development of a protocol for our photovoice research study. Vanessa is passionate about peer research and our public mental health research programme provides an opportunity to develop work with peer researchers to further understand how to best deliver public involvement in the context of public mental health










The McPin Foundation is a mental health research charity. We believe research is done best when it involves people with relevant lived experience that relates to the research being carried out.

We call this 'expertise from experience' and integrate this into our work by:

  • Delivering high-quality mental health research and evaluations that deploy collaborative methods

  • Supporting and helping to shape the research of others, often advising on strategies to involve expertise from experience 

  • Working to ensure research achieves positive change by influencing methods, practice, and decision-making in mental health research

Find out more here:



The NIHR School for Public Health Research (SPHR) is a partnership between eight leading academic centres with excellence in applied public health research in England: Universities of Sheffield; Bristol; Cambridge; Imperial; and University College London; The London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM); LiLaC – a collaboration between the Universities of Liverpool and Lancaster; and Fuse – a collaboration between Newcastle, Durham, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside Universities.

Public mental health is an international priority and a major challenge for public health practitioners, yet the evidence base regarding effective interventions is limited.  The public mental health programme involves applied public health research in children, young people and adults and aims to generate new knowledge which practitioners can use to deliver impact.

Find out more here:

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This project is supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Public Health Research (SPHR), Grant Reference Number PD-SPH-2015. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

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