Profile: PhD candidate Elise Carrotte

PhD candidate Elise Carrotte's research involves looking at ways to reduce stigma and discrimination that affects people living with complex mental health issues like schizophrenia, personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Podcasts for social change

Originally from Gippsland, Elise Carrotte grew up in a small locality in Victoria - Hazelwood North - which has a population of about 1500 people. Elise has both a public health and clinical psychology background, is a registered psychologist and completed a Masters of Clinical Psychology in 2018. She previously worked in private practice supporting clients with a range of mental health issues. In recent years, her academic interests include co-design and participatory research, attitude and behaviour change, shared decision-making, and suicide prevention.

Through her PhD, Elise plans to develop a podcast that features people talking about real experiences, and then to test the impact of listening. This is in partnership with national mental health charity SANE Australia, where Elise has worked since 2017 across several research and evaluation projects. SANE Australia had existing relationships with the University of Melbourne, particularly through the National Stigma Report Card project, so choosing the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences wasn’t a difficult decision to make.

This year, Elise is kicking off a co-design process, where she will be working with a variety of stakeholders to help develop the podcast. Latter stages will include recording and producing the podcast, and a randomised controlled trial to test the impact of listening. She’s learnt a lot about co-design, including experience-based co-design and due to COVID-19 restrictions, how this can be translated to a virtual environment.

Through her personal experience, as well as working in both research and clinical settings, Elise has seen first-hand the impact of stigma and discrimination around mental ill-health and believes that it’s unacceptable and needs to change. She is hoping that her PhD research helps us understand more about the role of storytelling in impacting upon individual attitudes. Elise has enjoyed learning from her supervisors Professor Lisa Phillips, Dr Chris Groot, Dr Michelle Blanchard, and Dr Fincina Hopgood.

Elise is very interested in how we use novel media – including podcasts – for social change. Podcasts are very popular in Australia, are highly acceptable and engaging, and can be used for real impact. In addition to completing her PhD, Elise cohosts a book review podcast and blog called ‘Novel Feelings’ where she discusses representations of mental health issues in fiction novels, and talks about what authors get right and wrong. Elise loves meeting with other podcast producers and hosts, learning about how podcasts work and what is involved in production.

When Elise isn’t researching, or working, she takes a break with some crafty hobbies, including sewing her own clothes. She says that doing her PhD can be isolating, particularly during lockdowns but she tries to get involved in Zoom social activities to maintain that connection with her colleagues and friends. Her advice for future PhD students: “Try not to compare yourselves to others. Everyone is on a very different journey and the expectations and activities change so much from one PhD to the other.”

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