Professor Helen Sharp B.Sc. (HONS) M.Phil. Ph.D. D.Clin.Psy.
Professor of Perinatal and Clinical Child Psychology Primary Care & Mental Health
- Work email Hmsharp@liverpool.ac.uk
After graduating with a Bachelors degree in Psychology and a Masters Degree in Neuropsychology I began my first Research Assistant role working on a prospective study of social and psychological predictors of postnatal depression at The University of Leicester. This laid the foundation for my interest in prospective longitudinal studies. My PhD focussed on evaluating the role of women’s expectations of childbirth and early motherhood and the role of expectation-outcome disparity in the development of postnatal depression. After a 2 year period working as a Research Fellow on a study evaluating cognitive therapy in the treatment of delusional beliefs I decided to train as a clinician and completed the Doctoral Programme in Clinical Psychology at the University of Wales, Bangor. I was motivated both to study the origins of mental health problems and to inform treatments to ameliorate them.
I now lead a Perinatal, Infant and Child Mental Health research group in the Department of Primary Care and Mental Health at Liverpool University. I am a practising Consultant Clinical Psychologist and provide supervision to the Family Nurse Partnership team supporting pregnant teenagers in Wirral Community NHS Trust. My research program focuses on understanding the earliest origins of childhood mental health problems, starting with pregnancy and the perinatal parenting environment. I have published high impact papers in the fields of adult mental health, perinatal mental health and child and adolescent mental health. Since 2006 I have jointly led The Wirral Child Health and Development Study, a large longitudinal study starting in pregnancy with follow-up to age 14 years, funded mainly by the Medical Research Council (https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/population-health/research/groups/first-steps/). I also lead a parallel longitudinal cohort study, the ‘The Bangalore Child Health and Development Study’ in the urban slums of Bangalore, India (https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/population-health/research/groups/bangalore/). This work aims to identify shared and distinctive risk and protective factors for child mental health and cognitive development across cultures through comparisons between the UK and Indian cohorts. These studies aim to better inform the development and targeting of new interventions for women and infants early in life. An additional substantive part of my work involves the evaluation and development of observational measures of early parenting.
I am active nationally, working to improve services for women, their partners and babies in the perinatal period and early years. I was National Chair of the Faculty of Perinatal Psychology, British Psychological Society for five years advising government, Heath Education England and NHS England on policy and workforce development for perinatal mental health. I co-authored the Royal College of Psychiatry 2018 (Framework for Routine Outcome Measures in Perinatal Psychiatry CR216). I am a member of NHS England’s expert reference group (ERG) for perinatal clinical outcome measurement and the ERG for parent-infant pathways. I sit on a range of Expert Reference Groups for NHSE and HEE. I also co-lead the National specialist perinatal mental health Continuing Professional Development program for qualified Clinical and Counselling Psychologists, funded by Heath Education England.