Meet Professor Myfanwy Maple

Posted 6th February 2019 in General

In the coming weeks, Life in Mind will be sharing a series of short interviews with suicide prevention researchers, to provide the sector with an insight into the important work that is being performed across the country.

Life in Mind’s Project Lead Simon Pont explains that the purpose of the Life in Mind portal is to connect practitioners to the evidence-base, in the hope of better supporting the sector and community to respond to and communicate about suicide and its impacts.

“We are working towards a way of further strengthening this relationship between research and practice, and feel that the best way to do this is by highlighting some of the research work that has been planned or already completed in the sector.”

As our first interview, we’d like to introduce Professor Myfanwy Maple (PhD, GCTE, GCAdolHlthWlf, BSW (Hons 1), GAICD) who has provided us with an overview of her research background as well as why she believes it is so important to translate research into evidence.

Myfanwy Maple is Professor of Social Work and Chair of Research in the School of Health at the University of New England in Armidale, New South Wales, Australia, and has contributed her experience to the Everymind team for many years.

What led you to enter research?

As an undergraduate social work student, I was also employed as a research assistant where the majority of my tasks were to transcribe interviews and manually enter data. While these tasks are laborious, this provided me with the opportunity to listen to stories of heartbreak, hope and resilience. This experience initiated a deep passion for privileging the lived experience of those who are often voiceless in our community, and are often the most disadvantaged. This is what continues to be the foundation of all the work I do in my roles within the university and in the community.

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It is imperative that we work collaboratively with those who have lived experience, service providers, researchers and policy makers to co-create new knowledge that is useful and meaningful across the spectrum to reduce suicide related distress, suicide attempts and suicide deaths, and the impact of these on the community.

Professor Myfanwy Maple

Can you please provide a brief overview of your research?

My work is predominantly qualitative, but also includes mixed methods projects, and generally involves working with service providers to explore issues of importance to them, as well as evaluating the impact of their service provision. I continue to focus on the lived experience of various traumas, predominantly exposure to suicide. This exposure sits along a continuum and includes those who have experienced suicidal ideation and behaviours themselves, those who care for them, and those who are exposed to and bereaved by the suicide death of another. Within my research group, we also focus on the vulnerability of those who are traumatised by events such as missing people, and those who are socially marginalised through age, culture or geographic location.

How would you best explain the process of translating research into practice?

For many years I have been discussing the challenges of both translating research into practice as well as practice into research, and how this cycle is broken at so many points. Unfortunately, political and funding drivers in research often focus on the need to translate separately from the services already working on the ground, or the needs of the population being served.

In suicide prevention, top down approaches such as this investigator led research translation drive have not resulted in changes to suicide rates. Thus, it is imperative that we work collaboratively with those who have lived experience, service providers, researchers and policy makers to co-create new knowledge that is useful and meaningful across the spectrum to reduce suicide related distress, suicide attempts and suicide deaths, and the impact of these on the community.