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Name: Rachel Leonard 

Research Theme: Maternal & Child Health

Research Title: A multi-perspective exploration of health visitors’ family focused practice with mothers with mental illness and their families in Northern Ireland: a mixed methods study.

Research Interests: My research interests include Mental Illness; Family Focused Practice; and Maternal, Child and Family Health.

Supervisors: Dr. Mark Linden and Dr. Anne Grant 


ResearchGate Profile: N/A

Personal Bio:

I undertook my undergraduate degree in Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast (2015), before continuing my studies with a Master’s degree in Social Research Methods, where my dissertation focussed on the emotional management of social work students in Northern Ireland. Through my employment and my academic studies I have had the opportunity to engage with children, young people, and families. The experience of working with families has deepened my interest in mental health, subsequently I embarked on my PhD in October 2016 to further explore this area.

Project Summary:

Maternal mental illness is a major public health issue and can adversely affect the whole family. Worldwide, about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth experience a mental illness, primarily depression and anxiety. Increasingly, research and policy are recognising the benefits of a family focused approach to practice. This approach emphasises the family as the unit of attention. This study aims to explore health visitors’ Family Focused Practice (FFP) with health visitors, mothers who have mental illness and their partners.

Data from this study will facilitate our understanding of the extent and predictors of health visitors’ FFP and provide information on the factors which help or hinder it. In addition, the data will also further our understanding of mothers and partners’ experiences of health visitors’ FFP.  Through understanding health visitors FFP we will be able to make recommendations for areas of improvement in the training of health visitors, and subsequently improve services for mothers who have mental illness and their families.

My Perfect PhD Day

My perfect PhD day would involve getting out and about and engaging with professionals, services users, families and study participants.


BSc Nursing – Evidence Based Nursing 

Other Activites

  • PGR PhD student representative within the School (2016-present)
  • School representative on the postgraduate forum (2016-present)
  • Organised a student-led initiative for PhD students across a number of schools
  • PhD student representative on the Athena SWAN committee (2018-present)

When I’m not PhDing…

I’m spending time with my children and family, travelling, and relaxing. 


Conferences & Publications:

Leonard, R., Linden, M., and Grant, A. (2017) Family Focused Practice for mental illness and substance misuse in home visiting: A qualitative systematic review. Poster presentation at the Annual Maternal Mental Health Alliance Conference, London, UK.

Leonard, R., Linden, M. & Grant, A. (2018) Family Focused Practice for families impacted by maternal mental illness and substance misuse in home visiting: A qualitative systematic review. In: Journal of Family Nursing, 24(2).

Leonard, R., Linden, M., and Grant, A. (2018) A MULTI-PERSPECTIVE EXPLORATION OF HEALTH VISITORS’ FAMILY FOCUSED PRACTICE WITH MOTHERS WHO HAVE MENTAL ILLNESS AND THEIR FAMILIES: A MIXED METHODS STUDY PROTOCOL. Poster presentation at the International Conference of Health and Social Cares Family Focused Practice – Symposium, Belfast.

Leonard, R., Linden, M., and Grant, A. (2018) Psychometric evaluation of the Family Focused Mental Health Practice Questionnaire in measuring home visitors’ family focused practice. PLOSone.