Research study using mindfulness to help stroke survivors moves online

The innovative HEADS: UP (Helping Ease Anxiety and Depression after Stroke) research team is launching a feasibility study to find out how best to run the project completely online for participants. They are starting recruitment this month to find around 10 people to take part.

Last year, the HEADS: UP study ran a hugely successful face-to-face nine week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course, HEADS: UP, for 14 stroke survivors and their families, using techniques including meditation, visualisation and gentle physical movement to help alleviate mood disorders.

Developed by Professor Maggie Lawrence, HEADS: UP is based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a programme created by the American mindfulness teacher in the 1980s and widely used across the NHS including in the treatment of eating disorders and multiple sclerosis.

The £365,000 three-year project is funded by the Stroke Association, who estimate that more than 120,000 people live with the effects of stroke in Scotland with numbers projected to double in the next 20 years.

HEADS: UP study Project Manager, Dr Bridget Davis, explained: “We had planned to roll the research study out on a much wider scale but COVID-19 has meant that we had to make the decision to test HEADS: UP completely online to ensure that it meets the needs of stroke survivors and their families.

“So instead of going to the larger scale just now, we will carry out a smaller feasibility study to see whether going online will work for this particular community. We are starting recruitment for that in October and will deliver HEADS: UP in the New Year. We are looking for about 10 or 11 people to see whether we can deliver the nine-week course that we ran face-to-face at GCU last year.

“We are very fortunate to have the same experienced trainer to deliver HEADS: UP online. In some ways running the sessions online is a bonus because maybe people who wouldn’t have been able to travel to GCU will be able to join us on Zoom. It also means we don’t have to limit ourselves to Glasgow; HEADS: UP will now be rolled out across the UK. There are pros and cons as we will also have to rely on people having access to the technology to join us.”

After the feasibility study, the team plan to roll out the study on a larger scale recruiting up to 150 people. They have also been working on a new webpage and have planned a social media campaign to attract participants to HEADS: UP.

HEADS: UP Researcher, Naomi Clark, added: “We have been working with the Centre for Living and Branding to put together a new webpage and we’ll be using GCU Learn to host the course online.  We may well be the first research study to use GCU Learn to facilitate this type of research project. It means participants can go on there, collect course materials and interact with other course participants using discussion boards. It’s a completely different avenue to go down for research. We also have a new Twitter account which we’ve been using to recruit participants for our Patient and Public Involvement group and share project updates and videos.”

The HEADS: UP team has risen to the challenges of COVID-19 and will continue to research ways to help stroke survivors. You can follow them on Twitter @HeadsUpStroke and visit the HEADS: UP website here.

HEADS: UP team includes Chief Investigator Professor Maggie Lawrence, Project Manager Dr Bridget Davis, Research Assistant Naomi Clark (pictured) and Administrator Catherine Vost.

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