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Dr Helena King

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Professional biography

I am an interdisciplinary social scientist, working at the interface of environmental and social psychology.  My interests are around biopsychosocial health and metamorphising vulnerabilities.  I aim to be a fluid, flexible and supportive conduit of work which improves the prospects of marginalised communities.

My early research career explored the psychosocial benefits of nature (PhD and post-doc), then achieving knowledge exchange on this topic between academia and the voluntary sector (NERC funded KTP internship).

I have worked in the third sector- with a homeless charity and a children’s/ adults’ hospice, designing, funding and monitoring wellbeing programmes for vulnerable people. 

I have also been research project manager and lecturer in the Open University's highly successful Centre for Policing Research and Learning.

Since early 2021 I have been working as a Lecturer in Mental Health in the School of Health Wellbeing and Social Care.  This exciting and deeply fulfilling role focuses upon the development of a new module on the social and environmental determinants of mental health.  This new module will go live in October 2023.


Research interests

I’m primarily a qualitative researcher, although have utilised quantitative and map-based methods during my post-doc. I am social constructivist/ new materialist, and my raison d'etre is social progress.  As such my research is spatially/bodily situated and tends to have an applied/ practical outcome. 

Broadly my research revolves around identifying factors which impact both positively and negatively on the health of our minds and bodies.  This manifests in an occupational context (e.g. work-related impacts on emergency responder health), institutional (e.g. charity roles in wellbeing support) or on an individual level (e.g. experiences of discrimination and/or support which alleviates the impacts of this upon holistic health).

Currently I am leading a project with the charity ‘HiVitality’ which will enhance and evaluate their programme of therapeutic retreats for HIV+ people experiencing stigma.  I am principal investigator on a collaborative project to create online tools to support student health/wellbeing..   As a co-investigator I am helping to deliver workshops to council employees in South Wales on coping with Covid-related grief and trauma.

To enhance the therapeutic contribution of my work I have recently started studying for a Foundation Degree in Counselling awarded by CPCAB and the Open University.

Teaching interests

Prior to my current post I was part of the group creating the OU’s new Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA).  As part of this exciting and challenging role I created the first-year curriculum content on vulnerability and public protection, and was the team lead for module BXY132 'Concepts and Theories in Policing'.

My present teaching in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Languages contributes towards the Degree in Health and Social Care.  I am a contributing author on K243 ‘mental health, environment and society’.  I also assist with the delivery of K240 ‘mental health and community’ and K314 ‘approaches to mental health’.

I have a special interest in audio/visual teaching methods and draw on personal interests in sound editing and producing/directing to create bespoke on-location recorded learning materials.  



The importance of landscape characteristics for the delivery of cultural ecosystem services (2018-01-15)
Ridding, Lucy E; Redhead, John W; Oliver, Tom H; Schmucki, Reto; McGinlay, James; Graves, Anil R; Morris, Joe; Bradbury, Richard B; King, Helen and Bullock, James M
Journal of Environmental Management, 206 (pp. 1145-1154)

Biodiversity and cultural ecosystem benefits in lowland landscapes in southern England (2017-11)
King, Helen; Morris, Joe; Graves, Anil; Bradbury, Richard B.; McGinlay, James and Bullock, James M.
Journal of Environmental Psychology, 53 (185 - 197)

Emergency Responders Mental Health & Wellbeing Project (2020)
Sharp, Marie-Louise; Harrison, Virginia; Soloman, Noa; King, Helen; Fear, Nicola and Pike, Graham
In : Emergency Responders Research Symposium: Mental Health & Wellbeing (30 Jan 2020, London)

Exploring charity sector wellbeing support for police (2019-09-10)
King, Helen; Harrison, Virginia and Pike, Graham
In : 2019 Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference: A civil society for the future: setting the agenda for the voluntary sector and volunteering research in the 2020s (10-11 Sep 2019, Aston University, Birmingham, UK)

Assessing the mental health and wellbeing of the Emergency Responder community in the UK (2020-06)
Sharp, Marie-Louise; Harrison, Virginia; Solomon, Noa; Fear, Nicola; King, Helen and Pike, Graham
Open University and Kings College London, London.

A glimpse into the realm of police wellbeing charities (2020-01)
King, Helen; Harrison, Virginia and Pike, Graham
The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.