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Ruth Naughton-Doe

My name is Ruth Naughton-Doe and I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow based at the International Centre for Mental Health Social Research at the University of York. My research addresses the social determinants of mental illness through co-produced interventions and evaluations. I collaborate with people with lived experience, practitioners, health and care services, communities, and the voluntary sector. Loneliness is the main focus of my research, but other research interests include support for unpaid carers, and timebanking. I am a mixed-methods researcher, very interested in creative methods such as mobile interviews and zine making. I also volunteer for Blaze Trails CIC, the UK’s parent and baby walking network. 

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Award Title: Mental Health Fellowship

Start Date: November 2022

End Date: March 2024

Location of Research: Manchester and Sheffield 

Collaborating Organisations: 

Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford 

PRIME-RU Perinatal Mental Health and Parenting Research Unit, University of Manchester 

Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield 

Project Title: Finding solutions for perinatal loneliness in collaboration with people with lived and practitioner experience. 

Brief summary: This research will find solutions for the related problems of loneliness and mental illness experienced by parents whilst pregnant and the first year after having a baby (the perinatal period). The idea for the research came from my own experience of loneliness and postnatal depression. 

Parents are at increased risk for loneliness, especially in the first-year post birth, and the negative impacts of both loneliness and mental illness can have lasting consequences for parents and their children. Parents who most need support might not be able to find it through not knowing where to look, or not being able to afford the options available. Support should be tailored to a parents’ unique situation, including support for fathers, parents of disabled children, adoptive parents, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT+) parents, parents from ethnic minorities, parents with disabilities or long-term health conditions, and parents with fewer financial resources. Parents who have felt lonely, and practitioners who have worked with those parents, hold vital knowledge to find solutions for perinatal loneliness.  


Experts on the project supervisory team, and research advisory groups (composed of practitioners and people with lived experience), will support me during this research to:  

  • Review the published research for potential solutions to perinatal loneliness. 

  • Talk to people who identify as feeling lonely at two points in their perinatal period to find out if and how they overcome their loneliness, the problems they face, and the ways they cope. 

  • Talk to practitioners and service users with lived experience to hear their perspectives on the solutions to perinatal loneliness. 

  • Reflect on these empirical findings with people with a research advisory group and experts to develop a framework for solutions for perinatal loneliness, called a Theory of Change. 

Benefits anticipated: 

The main research output will be a Theory of Change that will inform individuals, professionals, and policy makers on how best to prevent and reduce perinatal loneliness, particularly across underserved populations. The research findings will be shared widely to inform policy, practice, and self-help, including through a video, a four-page booklet and publication in a peer reviewed academic journal. 

I will also work throughout this Fellowship to build capacity for further research in this area through creating a Perinatal Loneliness Research Group to bring together academics interested in perinatal loneliness to collaborate in future research.