Experiences from clinical work as a nurse and as specialist in psychiatry woke her interest in research.
“I saw vulnerable people and their nearest suffer and I saw that they were exposed, so I wanted to be a voice for a group of people not many spoke up for at that time.”
In her dissertation, she studies aspect of the psychiatry reform in the 1990s. Its aim was integration and so called “normalisation,” which in practice meant that the responsibility for patients whose medical treatment was completed was transferred from the regional level to the local municipal level and, typically, to group homes. However, there was no tangible plan for the professional treatment of the people living in these group homes. Staff were struggling to understand their new role, while the residents interacted very little with the staff and were very much left alone in their flats.
Early preventive measures
Lisbeth Porskrog Kristiansen still feels strongly about the general field of mental ill-health, but lately she has focused her interest on how to prevent ill-health and promote well-being in school pupils.
“Yes, my focus is now on health-promoting measures and on the importance of taking action at an early stage. We have a lot to gain if we can increase our children’s well-being. Their school results will improve and, as a group, they will feel better.”
From pupils’ health to forensic psychiatric care
Right now, Lisbeth Porskrog Kristiansen leads a project in which a research team teaches staff in the Gävleborg school health section about physical and mental health, healthy living habits, coping, stress, abusive behaviour and sexual health. In turn, the staff teaches the pupils in small groups, and relaxation and other more playful elements are included.
“We have tested this model in another region with good results, and the signals from the school health section have been positive.”
In another project, coaches from municipalities are trained in how to help people with mental health conditions to return to work or to other activities.
“We would like to find out if a specific training programmes for staff in the municipalities can help these people. At the same time, it becomes a way to promote collaboration between different actors, which in our experience is very important in activating groups far removed from the labour market.
Yet another project focuses on health-promoting work for district nurses. The focus is on strengthening their own occupational health, but also on providing keys to use when they aim to promote their patients’ health.
Her research career has been wide-ranging, including such aspects as children’s health, the process of turning the nursing programme into an academic one, the emergency care chain, physical activity for people with long-term mental disorders and forensic psychiatric care with its dilemma of being both care and punishment at the same time.
“I hope that more people can be allowed to participate”
Lisbeth hopes that her work till contribute to better health in pupils and to finding beneficial intervention methods for people with mental health disorders, so that they are able to return to work and feel better.
“Our present goal is to find methods which enable us to prepare our young people; to help them feel better here and now, but also to become more resilient when life as young adult or as an adult puts pressure on them, because this is the reality.”
“Hopefully, we can also contribute in the work to ensure that the gaps do not keep widening in our good society, and that we can make more people participate,” concludes Lisbeth Porskrog Kristiansen, professor in caring sciences and research director for the University’s strategic research area Health-Promoting Working Life.
Text: Douglas Öhrbom