Postgraduate research

Improving Mental Health Literacy: Exploring and understanding how young adult carers of seriously ill relatives from ethnically diverse backgrounds recognise and seek support for their own mental and emotional-wellbeing

Qualification: PhD

Department: Health Sciences

Application deadline: 19 June 2022

Start date: October 2022



Project Description

Evidence tells us that supporting a family member with a terminal illness is difficult and can have immediate and long-lasting impact on family carers including mental and emotional distress such as, experiencing anxiety and lead to depression. For young carers the caring responsibility can also impact financially and on academic and career progression. However, carers may find it difficult to understand mental health and emotional-wellbeing information. This is often referred to as ‘mental health literacy’ and, is defined as understanding how to obtain and maintain positive mental health; understanding mental health problems and their treatments; decreasing stigma related to mental health problems; and, enhancing help-seeking efficacy1.   There is little research on how carers of those with a serious illness recognise, or seek support for their own mental and emotional-wellbeing, and how to improve mental health literacy.  Yet improved mental health literacy may reduce the burden on health and social care services and also reduce health inequalities. 

Young carers from ethnically diverse (ED) communities have an increased risk of developing poor wellbeing and mental health problems2. However, they may not access support because they are often unaware that such support exists2,3. Generally, young carers struggle and may be unidentified and unsupported with their caring responsibilities but the impact is often worse for ED young carers who are particularly vulnerable and often overlooked by the agencies including schools, local authorities and health services4

Although young carers are 1.5 times more likely to be from ED communities, little research has been conducted with this population and we need to understand the particular strains and pressures on these young carers who may have additional roles in supporting family members by acting as interpreter, advocate and navigator of health and care services. 

This fully funded PhD project will focus on YACs from ED communities to consider the research questions: 

  1. What impact does caring for a seriously ill relative have on the mental and emotional-wellbeing of young adult carers?
  2. How do young adult carers of seriously ill relatives recognise and care for their own mental and emotional-wellbeing?
  3. How can we improve the mental health literacy of young adult carers?

This is a mixed methods project. The doctoral student will carry out the following within the 3 year time frame: 

Year 1

  • Narrative review of existing literature regarding the mental health literacy of YACs from ED backgrounds including the impact of caring on carers mental and emotional well-being and the interventions used to improve the mental health literacy of YACs.
  • Write- up of findings for publication.

Explore potential methods used to recruit and conduct research with YACs from ED backgrounds.

Year 2

  • Recruitment of YACs through a number of formal and informal networks, seeking participants with a diversity of experiences. 
  • Data collection which will include mixed qualitative and quantitative methods such as:  one to one interview and focus groups (either face to face, by phone or videocall), Q sort methods and ecomaps may also be explored along with validated questionnaires (Quality of life questionnaires) to evaluate aspects of YACs mental health and their coping strategies. 
  • Data analysis –dependant on methods of data collection, this would include thematic analysis using a grounded theory approach. 
  • Initial development of evidence- to address the research questions and develop prototype intervention. 
  • Write- up of findings for publication. 

Year 3

  • Further development of prototype intervention.
  • Thesis write-up and publications as highlighted above. 

The work will be informed by a PPIE group and draw on additional expertise of the Palliative Care and Frailty Research Group and Mental Health, Ageing, Public Health and Primary Care (MAPP) Research Group.


  1. Kutcher, S., Wei, Y., & Coniglio, C. (2016). Mental health literacy: Past, present and future. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 61(3), 154-158.
  2. Children's Society (2018)  Young Carers of Black and Minority Ethnic families. The Children Society, London
  3. Independent Mental Health Taskforce to the NHS in England (2016) The five year forward view for mental health
  4. The Children Society (2013) Hidden from view: The experiences of young carers in England. The Children Society



Funding available to UK students only.

  • University full time PhD Registration Fees at UK rates for 3 years.
  • Annual stipend at standard RCUK rates based on £16,062 p/a for a 2022/23 start.
  • Research Training Support Grant of £1,300 p/a for 3 years.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor Degree 2:1 or better in a relevant subject.  Masters in a relevant subject is required 

The University of Leicester English language requirements apply


Informal enquiries

Informal enquiries

Project / Funding Enquiries:

Application enquiries to 


How to apply

How to apply

Please click on the Apply Button at the bottom of the page and select September 2022 entry and follow the prompts

With your application, please include:

  • CV
  • Personal statement explaining your interest in the project, your experience and why we should consider you
  • Degree Certificates and Transcripts of study already completed and if possible transcript to date of study currently being undertaken
  • Evidence of English language proficiency if applicable
  • In the reference section please enter the contact details of your two academic referees in the boxes provided or upload letters of reference if already available.

In the funding section please specify that you wish to be considered for Ref:  HS IMHL Smith/Islam PhD

In the proposal section please provide the name of the supervisors and project title (a proposal is not required)




This PhD is open to UK applicants only.

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