Veronica Heney - PhD Student

My PhD research will be on cultural representations of self-harm as experienced and interpreted by individuals who have self-harmed.

Following an English and History BA at the University of Oxford, I worked from 2015-2017 in the Social Sciences Applied to Healthcare Improvement Research group (SAPPHIRE) at the University of Leicester as a Communications and Academic Writing Assistant. The role involved communicating the group’s research across a number of platforms, through managing Twitter accounts, curating a blog, and organising events in addition to editing research publications.

I was fortunate to be funded for a short secondment during my time at the University of Leicester to work on the Department of Health Sciences’ Athena SWAN application. This involved not only collecting and presenting large volumes of data, but also generating a comprehensive and evidence-based action plan, through which we considered intersectional, proactive, and systemic approaches to issues of gender inequality. 

I completed my Gender Studies MA at the University of Sussex in September 2018. My dissertation research involved taking an interdisciplinary approach to gendered medical professionalism, allowing me to work theoretically with data collected both from interviews with medical students and junior doctors and from the TV show Grey’s Anatomy to describe and construct alternative approaches to professionalism. During my time at Sussex I was also fortunate to work with Dr Catherine Will on an engagement project around statins and decision-making.

While living in Leicester I was pleased to have been able to volunteer at Pride Without Borders, a group which provides support for local LGBT refugees and asylum seekers.

To have career highlights at the age of 26 seems presumptuous beyond belief; moreover, after a lifetime of measuring my worth in academic achievements, I am increasingly attempting to find most value in my life outside of work. However, despite ending up in research communications more by good luck than good management, I really did find that every time I was able to work with a researcher to produce a blog for the first time I was utterly delighted by the chance help them explore a new (and potentially scary!) medium in a way that felt both safe for them and valuable to the general public.

My PhD research will be on cultural representations of self-harm as experienced and interpreted by individuals who have self-harmed. Self-harm is not frequently represented in literature and visual media; it is possible that this may impact disclosure of self-harm and help-seeking. The project aims to explore what cultural representations are currently available to individuals who self-harm and how individuals who self-harm feel they are valuable with regards to understanding their own experiences and discussing them with others. This will build on existing analyses of film and literature to discuss reception and the work of self-narrativisation and provide insights into the relationship between discourse and experience. The project will consist of an interview study and a review of cultural texts.

My mum and I once got so badly lost we nearly had to sleep in the wild simply because we got confused about which side of a Hebridean Island we were on (spoiler: we weren’t on the side where our car was).