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 23 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, and works with partners in India and Bangladesh on global mental health challenges. With Professor Sarah Waters, she leads the University of Leeds Interdisciplinary Mental Health Network (from Jan 2022) and is involved in setting up the University’s Patient and Public Involvement Panel to support mental health research informed by those with lived experience. 

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 participatory methods to examine psychological functioning, well-being and health.

Current projects

ATTUNE: understanding mechanisms and mental health impacts of adverse childhood experiences to co-design preventative arts and digital interventions (Sept 2021- 2025)

Led by Professor Kamaldeep Bhui at the University of Oxford and Professor Minhua Ma at Falmouth University, this £3.8 million project is one the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) seven funded programmes, as par of a £24 million investment into improving the mental health and wellbeing of adolescents in the UK. The ATTUNE project will bring together diverse creative-arts, digital and health experts to investigate how adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can affect adolescents’ mental health with the aim of developing new approaches to prevention and care. ACEs refer to harsh, unsafe, abusive and/or distressing events or living conditions during childhood. Three in four adolescents exposed to multiple ACEs develop significant distress and mental health disorders as young adults. We do not yet fully understand what how ACEs unfold to affect their mental health and the role that place, identity and neurodiversity plays in that. We also do not yet have good enough ways of reaching affected young people with effective support. ATTUNE aims to address these gaps in knowledge and will do so by placing young people at the centre of our learning and action. The project draws in diverse disciplines to work together in new ways, spanning the arts, psychology, psychiatry and digital health. Four areas of England will be study sites, including Cornwall, Kent and Yorkshire and we will be working in partnership with several NGOs. ATTUNE will focus first on understanding lived experience, inviting young people to engage in creative practices around music, art and theatre to represent their story in their way. With their help, we will map their different contexts, experiences, and pathways through ACEs and where particular risk and resilience points arise.  We will learn about youth-preferred vocabularies and ways of making sense of ACEs and mental health outcomes and their creative outputs will feed into intervention and impact. Via an analysis of a large dataset we will examine what contributes to heterogeneity of adolescent mental health outcomes following ACEs. Learning from our creative and analytic outputs will help us shape, with young people, action for intervention. This will focus on public mental health initiatives, to help services and organisations understand ACEs and what young people need as well how we can support them in playing the parts they want to in their communities. A further major piece of work in ATTUNE focuses on improving therapeutic outreach. Talking about personal experiences of ACEs can be very hard and without easy access to services (eg because of rurality), many young people are not benefitting from evidence-based intervention that could help them experience safety and build trust. ATTUNE will co-design with young people, a serious game and examine whether this technology is acceptable for some young people as an early engagement tool which could help them feel ready for further therapeutic support. We will examine cost-effectiveness of a serious game intervention in different settings.  In ATTUNE, we aim to create a paradigm shift in how we are understanding and responding to ACE-affected young people. Siobhan is Co-I and supports public health intervention co-design and youth participatory research.  Watch an introduction to ATTUNE.

SAMA Project: Safeguarding Adolescent Mental Health in India (Jan 2021- Dec 2023)

Siobhan is Co-PI on a MRC / ESRC / UK Aid  / NIHR £1million funded project 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.  Follow us @_Project( Sama Twitter)   _projectsama (Instagram). Sign up to join our professionals’ network and / or for our project newsletter or vist the SAMA website for more details.

The Big Picture: 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.

Mainstreaming Global Mental Health.

Could research addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (eg around climate change, heritage, health), be supported to broaden their impact to mental health and wellbeing of participants and communities?  This is the question asked in our EPSRC GCRF seed-funded Challenge Cluster, led by Professor Anna Madill. The project examines the in principle potential of awarded Global Challenges projects to have secured some impact on psychosocial wellbeing, with little extra burden on the project. The ambition is to examine whether mental health impacts could be mainstreamed into research across many disciplines and across multiple global Sustainable Development Goals. 

IMMERSE: 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. This is now complete, working in partnership with AnotherSpaceVR, and we are working towards our next studies, which will include working with specialist settings, and with a focus on children and young people in specialist settings. Watch an introduction to the VR technology and example VR environments.

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). 

Recently 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. See pre-print here.

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 mental health professionals decision making (C Scott). 

A new PhD scholarship will be available starting Jan 2022 on participatory filmmaking and theraputic impact on vulnerable youth. Please email Siobhan for details. 


  • 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, Masters and doctoral 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>