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Dr Helena King

Profile summary

Professional biography

I am an interdisciplinary social scientist.  My interests are around biopsychosocial health and metamorphising vulnerabilities, and 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), and achieving knowledge exchange on this topic between academia and the voluntary sector (NERC funded KTP internship).   I then worked in the third sector- with a homeless charity and a children’s/ adults’ hospice, designing, funding and monitoring wellbeing programmes for vulnerable people. In 2017 I returned to higher education as a research project manager and then lecturer in the Open University's Department for Public Leadership and Social Enterprise. 

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, with some quantitative and map-based methodology experience.   My research is spatially and/or bodily situated and identifies factors which impact on the health of our minds and bodies.   My work aims to have an applied outcome, so I am oriented towards knowledge exchange and participatory approaches.  

Currently I am leading a project with a charity which is enhancing and evaluating their programme of therapeutic retreats for people experiencing stigma.  I am principal investigator on a collaborative occupational psychology project which is creating digital content to support OU student health/wellbeing.   As a co-investigator I am helping to deliver workshops to council employees in South Wales on coping with Covid-19 related grief and trauma.  Previous projects have worked with charities to explore health/wellbeing support for emergency service personnel.

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 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’, creating content on biopsychosocial models of mental health, the impact of poverty, and the role of the charity sector in supporting mental health.    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.