Depression in Ireland and a visit home – a tale of proximity


Quay Street, Galway

Post by Dr Karyn Morrissey

For the last three days (28th-30th of August ), I have been at the 41st British-Irish Regional Science Association Conference, hosted at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Hailing from Galway, I was doubly excited to present my findings at such an important conference and have my Mom and Dad pander to my every need for a few days!

The paper I presented reported on my research on admissions to acute psychiatric hospitals for depression in Ireland.  Ireland has traditionally reported high levels of mental illness and admissions to acute psychiatric hospitals. Indeed, at the turn of the 20th Century, 1% of 15 to 35 year old males were housed in a mental ‘asylum’ in Ireland. These high rates of reported psychiatric illness are what prompted my research.

My research sought to determine the factors which differentiate individuals with depression who seek acute psychiatric services from those who do not seek these services. Using spatial microsimulation techniques my research found that within my sample of individuals with depression, females, older individuals, those with higher education and interestingly those closer to a psychiatric hospital were more likely to be admitted to an acute psychiatric hospital. This would indicate that access to psychiatric services is a determinate in whether individuals seek acute help. Such a finding is interesting for two reasons – it may demonstrate that individuals without services are experiencing a service gap, but it may also indicate that living closer to an acute service leads to over utilisation and over-referral. So Geography matters in this relationship.

Thus, whilst happy that my research shows an interesting relationship between proximity to acute care and the uptake of these services – this research also shows that there is a lot more work to be done to understand these differences in access to psychiatric care and to address inequalities here.

So it’s back to the drawing board…and back to the internet to look for my next conference in Galway!

To Hell and back: sampling lakes and landscapes on the way to 66° 33’ N

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By Rich Chiverrell.

“If this is hell then you could say, it’s heavenly! Hell ain’t a bad place to be….” (Young, Young and Scott, 1977)

For 16-17 days of July 2012, John Boyle and I led a team from the School of Environmental Science (SoES) on a journey of 5000 km through Sweden and Norway sampling small lake basins from the boreal (coniferous) forests of the Scandes Mountains to lakes north of the Arctic Circle. The research was part of the ongoing Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT) ‘DYNAMITE’ (DYNAmic Models in Terrestrial Ecosystems and Landscapes) Project, which has supported research and teaching cooperation between and Liverpool and Lund University (Sweden) 2009 – 2013.

I set off with Daniel Schillereff on the day Andy Murray lost the Wimbledon final depriving me of the opportunity to get depressed by the ‘state of British Tennis’, apart from watching the first 2 sets in a terrible pub near the docks in Harwich. We were the advance party taking a people carrier loaded with equipment and fine music from Liverpool to Harwich, the ferry from Harwich to Esjberg (Denmark)  (overnight) where we gorged ourselves on the Smorgasbord, you can never have too many prawns, mussels and langoustines. From Esjberg we drove to Sweden across the humongous bridges that connect the islands of Denmark and SW Sweden to rendezvous with the rest of the team, timed perfectly to avoid the loading of the second vehicle. In Lund we met with the ‘absentee professor’ on secondment to Lund for 12 months and the team grew to include John Boyle, Masters student Fiona Russell, and BSc undergraduates Rachel Devine and Dan Wilberforce, the latter three engaged in fieldwork for their respective dissertations.

After fine dining, hosted by Gina and Richard (Bradshaw), we set off for the North. Commencing in Lund, we followed a route that traced the retreat of the last Scandinavian Ice Sheet from marginal limits 11,500 years ago in southern Sweden to sites further north that became ice-free has recently as 10-9,500 years ago. Our aim was to examine the nutrient dynamics of these small lakes and catchments during the early millennia of the current interglacial where mineral weathering and depletion appears to govern phosphorus supply to the lakes regulating water pH and thus ecosystem functioning.  So starting with Holtjarnen (60°39’N, 15°56’E) 620km north from Lund the team journeyed 320km north to Abborrtjärnen (63° 53 N, 14° 27 E), at both these lakes we bagged 2 long (whole Holocene) sediment cores, shallow surface cores and loads of catchment samples. We also experienced the delights of saunas, cabins, ‘lurve beef’, mosquitoes and loud industrial German heavy metal music.

Meanwhile the final three members of the team, Lee Bradley (post doc) and PhD students Tim Shaw and Jenny Clear began their journey from Liverpool. Flying to Stockholm and catching the night train to Murjek, essentially a hamlet the middle of absolutely nowhere in the northern Swedish forest close to the Arctic Circle populated by more reindeer than people, the lucky three arrived at 8 am and settled in for the long wait to be collected @4pm, more or less. Luckily the station cafe opened serving a nice range of frozen bread and very good value coffee for some.

Further south the rest of the team made the best pace they could to collect them, stopping at strategic burger bars, supermarkets and Systembolaget (State run liquor stores) for three nights in Jåhkåmåhkke, north of the Arctic Circle. There we visited and cored Sotaure Javri (66° 43 N, 20° 34 E), and slightly south Nuortsap-javre (66° 24 N, 20° 27 E), both yielding plenty of sediment. We also expanded our food range to include Char, Elk and Reindeer, before moving west towards the Norwegian border to our last lake ~ Rammstein Javri (66° 24 N, 16° 52 E) and the delightful village of Jäkkvik, where John Boyle treated us to his speciality-de-maison of ‘burnt porridge’.

From there it was the route home taking a very ‘long-cut’ through Norway, four people (Dan S, Tim, Jen and Lee) leaving us in Trondheim. Whereas the rest took in the delights of Hell, the Norwegian mountains including the Jotunheimen (“Home of the Giants”), glaciers (Nigardsbreen), waterfalls, Hytte, Fjords and Stavkirke on the way back to Lund in SW Sweden. In Lund they all abandoned me to drive a car loaded with sediment and rocks back across Denmark and the UK. A stunning trip, great food and the best company…..


Young A, Young M and Scott B, 1977. Hell ain’t a bad place to be. Let there be Rock, Atlantic Records.

Liverpool moves ahead on the low carbon agenda

Post by Dr. Pete North

I have been working for some time now with partners to advance the city’s transition to a low carbon economy.  The city struggled in the 1980s under mass unemployment and social unrest when dock employment declined, manufacturing was decimated and jets replaced liners.  Its year as Capital of Culture, and the revitalisation of the city centre showed that Liverpool had changed its image, although entrenched problems remain in the North of the city.

The ESRC funded Low Carbon Liverpool project has been examining how Liverpool can ensure its future prosperity while also reducing its carbon footprint, as it needs to do if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.  It’s great that visitors flock to Liverpool, but if this is means flying in for citybreaks, then perhaps it doesn’t have a future.  It’s great that students from all over come to Liverpool’s universities, but again – can we combine that with reducing our footprint. Are students and other wealth creators more likely to be attracted to a clean, green Liverpool than one choked with traffic?

On the 13th September the transition takes a major step forward as Low Carbon Liverpool becomes a formal part of the new Liverpool mayors policy making infrastructure, charged to develop the agenda further for the city.  Low Carbon Liverpool will be launched as a formal partnership for the city at an event hosted by Councillor Tim Moore, Cabinet Member for Climate Change.  I will outline the agenda for the transition to a low carbon economy, and we will also hear from other cities that have taken major steps forward: Liverpool’s partner city Nantes, and Bristol, recently a finalist for the European Green Capital programme.  The meeting will discuss how Liverpool can become a clean, green, healthy and equal city, perhaps itself a candidate to be Green Capital.

50 PhDs – almost there!

Post by Prof. Andy Plater

As intricate processes go, the Centre for Global EcoInnovation isn’t far off achieving its first goal of 50 PhDs at the Universities of Liverpool and Lancaster.  We’re building a new style of PhD – one where the research need is driven by regional small businesses and where the academic community can help deliver research-led products and services that aim to reduce carbon emissions and waste, and promote sustainable energy and resource use. Seven of these will be supervised in Geography, Civic Design and Ecology at Liverpool.  I really can’t wait for them to start on the 1st October – it’ll be a massive achievement.  Sorry to all the businesses and academics who were unsuccessful this time.  I hope we’ll at least be able to progress some important research through work-based dissertations or Masters projects.

Participatory research with KCC LIVE

Post written by Dr Bethan Evans

Last week Dr Joanna Long, Dr Matt Benwell and I had a tour of the studios at KCC LIVE, a youth-led community radio station based in Knowsley, which is on the outskirts of Liverpool. KCC LIVE was originally founded in 2003 (9 years ago) as a college radio station for Knowsley Community College and following great success was granted a 5 year FM community license in 2009 and now broadcasts across Knowsley on 99.8FM (you can also pick up the station in some parts of Liverpool and listen online). In 2010, the station was awarded ‘Best Station in the North West’ by the radio academy, and in 2011 was nominated for ‘station of the year’ (with <300,000 listeners) at the national Sony Awards.

I have followed the station since it was founded as a small college station. When I first visited KCC LIVE it had one studio on the edge of a kitchen/social area. The transformation I saw on the tour last week was fantastic – it now has three high-tech studios, is run by three full-time members of staff and 90 volunteers, young people aged between 10 and 25, some of whom are college students but a lot are just members of the local community.

The station is doing fantastic work – not just broadcasting high quality youth-led radio 24 hours a day (as the tagline says, ‘Boss music, no ads’), but also provides a fantastic opportunity for young people to produce media content, to learn vital broadcast skills and to develop a host of transferrable skills important during the current period when youth unemployment is at an all time high. The station also does important work producing content that is inclusive and has anti-bullying and anti-racism messages at its core.

So why were we, as geographers, visiting KCC LIVE?  Our visit was part of a growing relationship between the station and Geography at the University of Liverpool. Human Geographers in the Power, Space and Cultural Change research group at Liverpool are involved in a whole host of ways in what is called ‘participatory research’. In fact one of our colleagues, Dr Pete North, is the chair of the Participatory Geographies research group at the Royal Geographical Society and Institute of British Geography.

Participatory research is research that involves communities in all stages of the research rather than having a hierarchical relationship between researcher – who collects data – and research participants – who are studied. Instead, participatory research involves working with community groups and involving participants as researchers. This helps make sure that the research is of interest to the communities involved and that the research relationship has benefits for everyone – not just the researchers.

The radio station is of interest to us as geographers in relation to how it works with young people (Children’s Geographies is an important area in the discipline) and the ways in which radio can facilitate different forms of community connections between groups of people who might or might not share physical space.

Our visit to KCC LIVE was to discuss two research projects that we have been fortunate to get funding for that will start in the next couple of months and will involve volunteers from KCC LIVE as participatory researchers. Both of these projects will also involve the production of a radio documentary to communicate the results of the research so that this is accessible to the public.

Project one is funded by the British Academy and is a project which will involve youth volunteers making a radio documentary about their opinions of the riots that happened in Liverpool in 1981 and 2011. The researchers involved in this project are the three of us who went on the tour, along with Dr Andy Davies and Prof. Richard Phillips.

Project two is a PhD CASE studentship funded by the ESRC North West Doctoral Training Centre which will look at how the station benefits and connects communities of young people within Knowsley. This will be a longer (3 year) collaboration with the station.

As these projects unfold we will post updates on this blog. We are very much looking forward to working with KCC LIVE and the fantastic staff and volunteers at the station.

Welcome to the University of Liverpool’s Geography Blog


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