Finding your people. Finding your place.

So last week I was trying to juggle things: I was writing up my proposed methods and methodologies, whilst also attending an awesome one and a half day conference, whilst also feeling poorly at the beginning of the week, which meant I did not have enough time for task number and resulted in quite a late night on Friday night, and not the fun kind! I got it finished and sent off on Friday at about 3 minutes to midnight: win!

This post is really though about the conference. I went along to the third Suicide and Self-Harm Early and Mid-Career Researchers’ Forum (but my first). Now, as you might expect, suicide research is pretty embedded within psychology, so the majority of conference goers and conference presenters were psychologists, and this meant lots of stats.

No, I mean it, lots of stats.

I was scared. I’ve done some stats for my old job, and for my masters, but like it is definitely not my strong point, and definitely not compared to these folks who were literally devoting three years plus of study to numbers. But really it wasn’t even the numbers part that scared me. I had my laptop, google is my pal, and the presenters were all really good at explaining what they were doing. What I was scared of was being out of place. I was scared that I had gotten over-excited to be able to hear from and chat to people doing ‘my kind of research’ and maybe this was not going to be the case.

But that did not happen. The conference was lovely, they made a real point at the beginning of asking people who didn’t know anyone to alert the conference organisers so they could help us make pals, which was so appreciated. But also, I bumped into an old colleague who does is doing some awesome qualitative self-harm and suicide research and she super kindly allowed me to tag along with her and introduced me to some other folks doing qualitative research, and I bumped into a Twitter pal (you know the kind of person who tweets awesome stuff but you haven’t met in real life), so that was really exciting!

My highlights:

Talking about failure: A researcher from Bristol University called Dee (who you can check out on Twitter here) did a talk on her career path and talked super honestly about failure: about not getting accepted for PhDs, not getting accepted for fellowships, and not getting grants. It was just so refreshing to hear someone talk in such an honest way about embracing failure in order to make their work better. Particularly as she has also had huge successes!

Talking more about their feels will decrease male suicide: A researcher from Edinburgh University (check her out here) talked about some of the unhelpful rhetoric around male suicide, arguing that whilst it may help some men to open up and talk about their feelings, there are some quite material difficulties in some men’s lives that need addressing if we wish to protect them from suicide. She argued that whilst some men may benefit from talking more, this cannot be the end of our efforts for prevention.

Publishing advice: The editor of the Lancet Psychiatry came and chatted about how to get published. He gave four very clear points that articles would need to include in order to be considered.

  1. What was the question and why you asked it (the ‘so what’ part)
  2. What did you do?
  3. What did you found?
  4. What does it mean and how could this change practice?

It feels pretty achievable I would say! But mostly inspiringly I think, he talked about the commitment from the journal to gain more women editors (they currently are at 40% and are aiming for 50%), and to include authors and editors from low and middle income countries. Maybe I’m easily pleased, but I thought it was really great to hear that from the editor of a journal!

Connecting with others: now I haven’t done it yet but throughout the conference there was a big effort to encourage us to network and there was a short talk about a network of early career researchers in suicide and self-harm called NetECR. They have a blog and a Twitter that I am going to be trying to connect in with.

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