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'Digital mental health' refers to any application of digital technology in mental health services. This includes a growing ecosystem of tools for promotion, prevention, evaluation, treatment, and management of mental health, either as standalone tools or integrated within traditional care pathways. As these tools proliferate, considerable effort has been dedicated to identifying associated legal, ethical and social issues, such as transparency, data security and accountability.

To date, ethics efforts have primarily been reactive, assessing and reflecting upon existing technology. Yet, frameworks such as value-sensitive design (Friedman, 1996) and design justice (Constanza-Chock, 2020) call for embedding moral values within and throughout the design process. Such integration can help make explicit the political, social, and ethical values digital mental health tools embody, and transform existing practices.

There is ample scope for research projects that help ensure the design of digital mental health tools consider its broader societal impact and do not reproduce interlocking systems of structural inequality. Projects falling under this theme might focus on:

  • Producing and testing frameworks and methods to systematically discover, analyse, incorporate values into the design of digital mental health tools.
  • Investigating users’ perspectives on how the design of particular mental health tools interact with societal factors to meet or marginalise the care needs of different groups of individuals, with a view to inspire more equitable tools.
  • Developing and evaluating strategies to centre the voices of end-users in the design and evaluation of digital mental health tools.
  • Co-designing and testing technology tools that promote mental health and wellbeing through empowering communities and promoting human values. 


The student would shape their specific project according to their interests and expertise. Training might include:

  • Co-production and participatory research
  • Design, data collection, analysis, and interpretation in qualitative and quantitative research
  • Theories and methods in bioethics and mental health science
  • Value-sensitive design and related approaches
  • Science communication.


Projects might be based in the UK or internationally, and external placements can be arranged to support the project. We have collaborations with research teams across the UK (e.g., Falmouth, Kent), in Brazil (e.g., University of Brasilia), USA (e.g., Yale) as well as international organisations (e.g., UNICEF), charities (e.g., YouthEra) and technology partners (e.g., Talk2U).


The ideal candidate would have experience of empirical research in bioethics, human-computer interaction, psychology, public health, social sciences, psychiatry, or related field. Experience of co-design and interdisciplinary working are desirable.