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Hidden Harms

20 Jan 2017 3:30PM

The University of Suffolk will be hosting a national conference, Hidden Harms, bringing together the UK’s leading experts and charities working to support young people to address a range of mental health issues.

The key note address will be delivered by Dr Richard Graham, leading Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and former Clinical Director of the Adolescent Department at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. He will be speaking about how mental health can overlap with digital.

The conference, taking place on Monday 23 January, will be focused on young people and will have the theme of mental health and wellbeing. It is being at professionals from social work, education and health. The aim is to equip practitioners with how to respond appropriately and effectively to the needs of young people.

Organisations including Self-Harm UK, B-eat, Stem 4, The Marie Collins Foundation and Papyrus will join academics from the University of Suffolk presenting their research on subjects such as self-harm, bereavement and young people and virtual violence.

Ben Gummer, MP for Ipswich, said of the conference “I think we are only just waking up to the seriousness of the problem we have in families and communities across Ipswich and the country of young people’s mental health. I was so pleased to see the prime minister address this directly in her speech, which demonstrates the seriousness in which the government takes this issue. The fact is that we are going to have to be creative in how we seek to improve the mental health of young people – from understanding better how the environment for social media evolves in the future to providing the right support near home for those who have clinical mental health requirements. I commend this conference for the work it is doing to explore these problems and solutions that are so badly needed. And I look forward to the results of your work.”

Hidden Harms is taking place during University Impact Week (23-27 January).

Over the past year the research carried out by University of Suffolk has had significant impact both locally and nationally.

Dr Emma Bond, who is leading on the Hidden Harms conferences and an expert in many social issues, said “We are very proud of the research we have carried out as it has made a real difference to people’s lives and it has made and a substantial contribution to improving service delivery in a number of different areas.”

“We have wide range of research expertise and adopt a trans disciplinary approach working with national government, local authorities, charities and private sector companies. We focus on delivering high impact research which makes a difference and we have a passion for designing robust, efficient solutions to improving social problems.”

Nationally research by the University of Suffolk continues to be highly influential especially on safeguarding and improving the lives of children and young people.

The Marie Collins Foundation who will be speaking at Hidden Harms is the UK charity enabling children who suffer sexual abuse and exploitation via internet and mobile technologies to recover and live safe and fulfilling lives. They have been able to develop a new training initiative called CLICK: Path to Protection for professionals as a result of a national study undertaken by Dr Bond. The Marie Collins Foundation has called for a UK government taskforce to tackle the abuse of young people via the internet and digital technology and, thanks to the research by the University, the CLICK: Path to Protection training is being rolled out across England, Ireland Scotland and Wales to police officers, social workers, teachers, health personnel and NGOs.

Tink Palmer CEO of the Marie Collins Foundation said “Through our practice based evidence, the Marie Collins Foundation (MCF) had been aware of the fact that professionals working in the field of safeguarding and child protection lacked confidence and the expertise to deal with issues relating to the online abuse of children. However, there was little research based evidence to back our claims and we, being a newly established charity, had limited financial resources to commission such a piece of work. The study demonstrated the urgent need for training for frontline professionals when tackling online abuse of children. This report has been pivotal in enabling the MCF to influence our UK wide policy makers and stakeholders within Government and the children’s workforce regarding the need to ensure that appropriate training programmes are developed to help our colleagues better respond to the needs of children. These evidence based findings have also enabled our organisation to prove to potential funders that the need exists and that the work that we do is crucial to the future wellbeing of the children living in the UK and further afield. We continue to work in partnership with the University of Suffolk and look forward to developing further joint initiatives in the near future.”

Improving understanding of how young people are using the internet in potentially harmful ways is another example of the impact research at the University is having. Whilst Dr Bond has undertaken different aspects of research into young people’s digital lives online, there has recently been increasing concern nationally and internationally into the use of pro-eating disorder, pro-self harm and pro-suicide websites. 

The numbers of children with a mental health issue are increasing, for example,  eating disorders, self-harm, anxiety and depression and the number of websites promoting anorexia, self-harm and suicide are growing.

In 2013 Dr Bond investigated the phenomenon of pro-eating disorder websites, blogs and online communities as part of a research study funded by the Nominet trust. As a result of that research Insafe, working under the framework of the European Commission’s Safer Internet Programme to deliver a safer and better internet, invited her to Vilnius, Lithuania to deliver the key note speech and run workshops for helpline professionals across Europe on improving understanding of the risks posed by these websites to children.

For professionals working to support and help young people these online environments can pose considerable challenges. The research has been influential in how health professionals and mental health professionals work with young people in practice as Dr Bond has delivered staff training workshops for NHS trusts across the UK and the Tavistock Clinic in London across the UK to increase awareness of the sites and how young people are using them.

Dr Richard Graham, Consultant Psychiatrist at the Tavistock and Portman Clinic in London, and keynote speaker at Hidden Harms gave an example of the impact the research has had on practitioners “Dr Emma Bond introduced her hugely informative research on pro-anorexic sites in a manner that enabled the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service practitioners present not only to feel more knowledgeable about this complex area, but more confident in how they could talk with young people about this issue. This was a fantastic contribution that truly reflected the dilemmas of professionals and families when online risks are part of the work.”

To find out more about University Impact Week visit

The Hidden Harms conference takes place on Monday 23 January from 9-4.30pm. More information can be found at


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