Looking for answers to stress in school

Mental health issues in children are on the rise, but we do not really know why. This is the opinion of Malin Eriksson, who wants to look for answers with one foot in research and the other in the corporate world.

As part of her doctoral work, Malin Eriksson, Doctoral Student at the Department of Psychology, is studying how preschool children work together and compete with each other. She is particularly interested in the link between stress and how children handle competitive situations.

“School, especially from lower secondary school and onwards, is full of competitive situations, and revolves around friends, popularity and grades. What does this mean for children who do not like to compete and cases where other strategies are not possible?”

She decided to delve deeper into the subject, and found many reports showing that children are stressed and are developing ill health in school. However, the reports do not provide any clear explanations of why. This sent the gears turning in her head, and she realised that she could develop a solution to identify the causes of children's experience of stress in school.

“To me, research is a tool for changing things for the better. But, it is not until I can put it into practice that I can make a difference and help others in a meaningful way,” says Malin Eriksson.

But, what steps do you take to move an idea forward, develop it, and ultimately realise it? For Malin Eriksson, the Mentor4Research programme was the first step.

“Mentor4Research has been an eye-opener for me, forcing me to look at whether there is any commercial value to the research and getting strategies to test. Now, I also know that there are companies who want to work with researchers. That was something new to me,” she says.

Her mentor previously worked as a teacher and head teacher, and now works to develop and sell teaching materials. They are in contact a few times a month, and the mentor serves as both a sounding board and a door opener.

“I've gotten a lot of help in making my idea more concrete and breaking it down into milestones. It means a lot that my mentor has an understanding of the world of the school. The solution I want to develop needs to be both cost effective and simple in order to work,” says Malin Eriksson.

Her goal is to have one foot in the research world and the other in the corporate world. Commercialisation becomes a means of outreach with the research, and gives it a value even outside of academia.

“It is important to capture those who want to be part of developing businesses with their knowledge. In such cases, you need a different type of support and skill set. This is what my contact with Mentor4Research and the advisors at UU Innovation has given me,” concludes Malin Eriksson.