Bethany Cliffe

The adaptation and evaluation of a self-help smartphone app (BlueIce) to prevent self-harm and improve the mood of University students
University of Bath
Bethany Cliffe Profile
Tell us a bit about yourself – what stage of your PhD are you in and what’s your project about?
Hi there! My name is Beth and I am a first year PhD student at the University of Bath. My project is looking at adapting a smartphone app (BlueIce) to use with university students who are struggling with self-harm. The rationale behind this is that self-harm is particularly prevalent in university students but they don’t often seek help for it due to the shame and stigma surrounding self-harm. Providing them with a smartphone app that they can use freely and at any time should help to overcome some of these barriers and provide more support to students who are self-harming.

What does a typical day or week look like for you?
I’m in the early stages of my PhD so it’s hard to say what a typical day or week looks like at the moment – it seems to change week on week. So far, I’ve been doing lots of reading around my topic, writing protocols and putting together ethics applications. I’ve also been attending lots of workshops provided by the university to help develop my skills as a researcher. I have an office on campus but, as I live in Bristol, I do also spend some time working from home – it’s really nice to have the flexibility to do that.

What’s one thing that you’ve enjoyed the most during your PhD?
My favourite things so far has to be the people I have met. Everyone is so friendly and social so it’s been really nice getting to know a whole new bunch of people. It’s also nice having people around for support during this period while we are all still trying to find our feet. People in my department are from such a diverse range of fields so it’s also been really interesting hearing about everybody’s different research interests and their projects.

What’s been the most challenging part of it?
I think the most challenging part for me has been the level of autonomy and independence that you have during a PhD. Before starting I was working as a research assistant, so I’m still trying to get out of the ‘assistant’ frame of mind and get used to being in control of my own research. While this can be very challenging, it is still incredibly rewarding and I am enjoying taking the lead on a project that I am so interested in.

Where do you see yourself 5 years after completing your PhD?
In 5 years I would love to have a career in academia, I really enjoy research and I have always loved being in university settings as there is so much energy and there are so many great opportunities. At some point in the future I would also love to work in the NHS or charitable sector in some capacity where I can provide support to people struggling with their mental health. My MSc was in clinical psychology and mental health is something I am extremely passionate about, so I would feel very lucky if I were to work somewhere in that field one day.

What’s one piece of advice that you’d offer students that are thinking of doing a PhD?
I think that the most important thing is that you have to be interested enough in your topic to live and breathe it for at least 3 years! I spend my days reading, writing and talking about my topic so, if I wasn’t interested in it, I can imagine that would be difficult. Three years is a long time so I would say that you have to be sure that it is definitely the topic for you.

What makes your university a good place to study?

Bath is a fantastic university in terms of the atmosphere, the opportunities, the staff and the students. The campus is absolutely beautiful and there are plenty of places to catch some down time when needed, especially in the summer. I really enjoy the workshops they provide for doctoral students to help us to develop any skills we need. PhDs can be quite lonely so I’m also really grateful for the effort the university goes to to make sure everybody has opportunities to socialise and get together with other members of the university.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I am very lucky to live in such a great part of the country, so I like making the most of getting out and about. This could be going for a walk in nature or going to see interesting exhibitions on at the museums and galleries. I also love music so I really enjoy going to gigs at the amazing venues around Bristol.

Want to know more about Bethany?
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