Dr Siobhan Hugh-Jones

Dr Siobhan Hugh-Jones


Siobhan is Associate Professor of Mental Health Psychology in the School of Psychology, University of Leeds. She has an academic career of over 20 years. Having gained her BSc Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast, and her doctorate in Developmental Psychology from the University of Sheffield, she joined the University of Leeds in 1998. Her work has spanned developmental, clinical and applied health psychology, especially adolescent mental health, school based interventions, mindfulness and qualitative, participatory and co-design methods. She also works with technology partners to develop digital ways of reaching teenagers with mental health support. 

Research interests

Siobhan is interested in understanding the nature, origin and experience of mental health difficulties, particularly in adolescents, and in investigating the potential of co-designed programs as prevention and early intervention. Adolescence appears to be a time of heightened vulnerablity to the onset of mental health difficulties. There is still much to learn about why this is the case, whether difficulties can be prevented, and what form of intervention post-onset is the most acceptable, effective and sustainable in differnt arenas (e.g. schools, community, primary care). Siobhan is also interested in global mental health, and in working with collaborators in low-and-middle income countries, to address adolescent mental health in different contexts, with varying conceptualisations of mental health, resources and needs. She collaborates with national and international academics, the third sector, local government, digital innovation services, mental health and educational services, young people, families/carers and schools, and has expertise in the co-design and evaluation of school interventions and the scholarly application of creative qualitative research methods (especially visual methods) to examine psychological functioning, well-being and health.

Current research

The SAMA Project: Safeguarding Adolescent Mental Health in India

Siobhan is Co-PI on a MRC / ESRC / UK Aid  / NIHR funded project (Jan 2021-Jan 2024) in collaboration with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in India, and involving multiple Indian and UK partners. It is estimated that 9.8 million Indian 13-17 year olds have a diagnosable mental health condition and suicide is the leading cause of death among adolescents. Project SAMA (meaning equal in Sanskrit) aims to develop and test a whole school, systems based interventions to provide Indian adolescents with information and strategies to take care of their mental health and to improve school cultures and family knowledge to support well-being. In Year 1 of SAMA, we will co-design or co-adapt interventions with young people, parents,teachers, school leaders, mental health professional, policy makers and representatives from Indian health and education departments. We will build on international evidence and interventions. We will co-design four interventions that (1) help young people understand and manage their own mental health, especially anxiety and depression; (2) help teachers reduce their use of corporal punishment and improve their understanding of adolescent mental health; (3) improve the school climate for mental health and reduce mental health stigma; and (4) improve parents' understanding ofadolescent mental health to support their young person. We will develop plans to implement and evaluate these interventions, with close attention to training people who deliver them and how to prepare an intervention's 'soft landing' in school to increase chances of success. Year 2 will be a feasibility and acceptability study of the intervention, alongside a mental health campaign using social media and film to improve mental health literacy in multiple sectors. In Year 3, we will work with the communities to learn about what we need to do to improve interventions so that we can build towards a trial to determine if the interventions are effective. SAMA will also learn how to increase the use of evidence on school mental health programmes in Indian health policy.

Understanding risk and resilience in India young people around substance use disorder

Siobhan is Co-I on an ESRC / AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund project (2018-2020) using photovoice to enhance psychological, social and cultural insights into the prevention and treatment of substance abuse in youth in India. Based in Assam, India, this project aims to understand how young people who are at risk of substance dependence (given familial risk) manage to remain safe and psychologically well. The team are examing how some young people come successfully through treatment for substance abuse disorders (which has varying outcomes for many). Learning more about the experiences of both of these groups will help us to understand resilience (and therefore possibly promote it among other young people) and 'what works' for treatment. This project keeps young people's perspectives and needs at the centre, and through photovoice, the team will be generating films, exhibitions and social media campaigns to challenge myths about substance dependence as well to as raise the 'voice' of young people in the mental health arena. The team will be helping institutions to explore potential therapeutic uses of photovoice for their service-users, and  will also be mapping the way that evidence on mental health is taken up in policies, and what status user perspectives can have. Follow on Twitter @UKProResilience.

Improving parent / carer mental health literacy 

Leeds has an impressive strategy for supporting the mental health of its young people. As part of this, Siobhan leads current project to co-design and implement resources for parents / carers who are worried about their young person's mental health. Parental / carer mental health literacy refers to their understanding of mental health, signs and symptoms of changes in mental health vs normal teenage behavious, what ways of support can help, and where and when to engage other services. These resources will be available via Leeds MindMate and will be evaluated. Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group is funding this project (2019-2020). 

Exploring the potential of immersive technologies for adolescent mental health

Funded by the Medical Research Council’s Proximity to Development Fund, this project (2019-2020) spans city-wide consultation in Leeds to determine the vision and concerns for the use of immersive technology for adolescent mental health within UK schools, and to deliver a proof-of-concept feasliblty study by the end of 2020.  Working in partnership with Another Space, this project will include extensive co-design by young people to determine how they see the future of technology in supporting their mental health. To find out more, email s.hugh-jones@leeds.ac.uk

Completed research

Co-design of digital mental health interventions for UK schools

Siobhan recently led an MRC funded project (2017-2019) which co-deisgned and feasiblity tested a smartphone delivered psychoeducational resource to young people who self-referred as experiencing deteriorating mental health. This resource was designed to address transdiagnsotic risk factors, and to be available only in secondary schools, with wrap-around human support. The team represented a collaboration between young people, schools, parents / carers, digital innovation services, Leeds CCG and MindMate. The project tested the prototype in four secondary schools in Leeds. Outcomes will be reported by Autumn 2019. A next stage RCT is planned. 

Whole school approaches to mindfulness

Siobhan led an ESRC knowledge exchange program examining the ways in which mindfulness based programs might be deliverable in UK schools, delivered commissioned reports to Clinical Commissioning Groups and to an All-Party Parliamentary Group on the evidence for mindfulness based interventions with young people, and has Chaired a White Rose Consortium on Mindfulness in Schools, which has published a systematic review on mindfulness for teachers.

Understanding school stress as a risk factors for poor mental health 

Adolescent mental health difficulties are often triggered by adverse events or chronic stress. Siobhan has led a study to understand, from young people's perspectives, the routine aspects of school life that contibute to chronic stress (2018-2020). 

Doctoral students

Siobhan has supervised 13 students to completion, many funded via scholarships, with most drawing upon qualitative and visual methods to explore aspects of well-being and mental health in the UK and internationally. Current Phds (~2018-2023) include Strengthening Adolescent Mental Health in India: developing measures and theory (A Palmer, School of Psychology Scholarship), Understanding the experiences of left-behind children in China (S Dong), Co-designing mindfulness-based community interventions for young people in India (U Higgins, Endowed Scholarship), Risk and resilience in student mental health during the CV19 pandemic (C Horner), Mental health stigma among Chinese young people (N Song) and Understanding counsellor safety (R Haslam).


  • PhD Developmental Psychology
  • BSc Psychology
  • Certificate in Counselling
  • Postgraduate Teaching & Learning in Higher Education

Professional memberships

  • British Psychological Society
  • Anna Freud Learning Network: Schools in Mind
  • ESRC Emerging Minds Network
  • ESRC eNuture Network
  • Mental Health Innovation Network
  • International Association of Youth Mental Health

Student education

Siobhan teaches applied health psychology (intervention design), qualitative methods, introduction to psychological approaches to mental health, and advanced developmental psychology. Siobhan also supervises undergraduate and Masters projects in adolescent mental health.

Research groups and institutes

  • Health and social psychology
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>