Our staff

Dr Vanessa Pinfold

Vanessa has worked in mental health research for over 25 years. During that time, she has published studies on stigma and discrimination, families and carers, experiences of the mental health system, wellbeing networks and, more recently, co-production in mental health research.

She is now prioritising developing peer research methods through collaborative or co-production approaches.

Vanessa currently chairs the Alliance of Mental Health Research Funders and is co-founder and research director at McPin, responsible for overseeing the work of the charity. She also has a PhD from University of Nottingham.

Vanessa Pinfold, Research Director
Vanessa Pinfold, Research Director

Dr Dan Robotham

Dan has run research and evaluation projects in NHS, academic and charity settings for many years. He is interested in how research ‘works’ and in making it more collaborative and inclusive.

Before joining McPin in 2017, he facilitated Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) at the Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre. Before that, he coordinated a clinical trial to improve learning disability services whilst doing a PhD on participants’ experiences of involvement.

He maintains some cynicism about the research ecosystem (such as the way it is incentivised, funded, published, and findings put into practice), and seeks to find ways to improve it.

Dan Robotham, Deputy Research Director

Dr Thomas Kabir

Thomas has worked on a variety of research studies, often around psychosis or paranoia. He also has an interest in research ethics and chairs a Research Ethics Committee.

Before McPin Thomas worked in mental health roles from advocacy to supporting the roll-out of new therapy services in London. He was also coordinator of a national service user involvement arm within the NIHR Clinical Research Network for 5 years.

He has worked on national public and patient involvement in research initiatives and helped produce resources which support people receiving benefits to be paid for involvement work. Thomas has a PhD from University College London.

Dr Thomas Kabir, Deputy Director - Public Involvement in Research

Tanya Mackay

Tanya joined McPin in 2019 following a move from Australia.

Her previous work was university-based, and had a strong focus on co-design and peer roles in research and advocacy.

Tanya has been involved in developing policy in the mental health space. She has an interest in vicarious trauma for people in support roles and research and hopes to contribute to improving support for people in these positions.

She has a First Class Honours degree in social work, and uses her practice knowledge of strengths-based and narrative approaches, as well as her lived experience as both a service user and carer, to inform her research.

Tanya Mackay, Research Manager
Tanya Mackay, Senior Research Manager

Dr Rose Thompson

In the decade since completing her PhD in social psychology, Rose has worked on projects relating to psychology, genetics, ethics, epilepsy, intellectual disability and mental health in a range of settings.


Rose joined McPin in 2015 and since then has worked on a range of evaluation and research projects, most of which relate to social and community approaches to mental health. She has a specific interest in narrative and creative research methods, and has supported a number of peer researchers in different roles and projects as a line manager.

Rose Thompson, Senior Research Manager

Raj Hazzard

At McPin Raj has worked on a range of projects exploring the nature of ‘peerness’ in research and service delivery. Her role titles range from co-investigator to peer evaluator. She has experience of working on evaluations with local, regional and national scope with a particular focus on employment.


Raj has a passion for using her experiential expertise to further understanding of intersectional, critical and transdisciplinary approaches to mental health research. Before joining McPin in 2015, she provided peer support to individuals leaving crisis care and in hospital, introducing innovative practices to support wellbeing.

Raj Hazzard, Senior Researcher

Zara Schneider

Zara has experience working in mental health quality improvement and healthcare.

She spent almost two years co-ordinating the Perinatal Quality Network through the Royal College of Psychiatrists. She also co-authored the suicide chapter of the 2019 State of Child Health Report.

Additionally, she has worked as a director of a small grass-roots mental health peer support charity and chaired the Maternity Voices network for the South-West.

Her PhD research focuses on the barriers faced by ethnic minority men when accessing mental health services.

Zara Schneider, Senior Researcher

John Gibson

John joined McPin in 2014 as a LEAP (Lived Experience Advisory Panel) member before becoming a service user researcher. He now works on the PARTNERS3 and WHOLE-SMI studies.

He is also a peer researcher on a study at University of Cambridge, a PPI Co-ordinator on a study at Newcastle University, and is the LEAP member for the re-approval of Approved Mental Health Professionals in Staffordshire.

With a diagnosis of bipolar, John brings over 20 years’ experience to a role that emphasises the importance of lived experience of mental health issues to research, alongside clinical and academic approaches.

John Gibson, Service User Researcher

Rachel Temple

Rachel is a Public Involvement in Research Manager at McPin, having joined the team as a trainee in 2017.

She leads McPin’s Young People’s Youth involvement work, including the Young People’s Advisory Group and young people’s network. She is passionate about meaningful involvement of young people in mental health research in ways that are comfortable, accessible, and engaging.

As a young person with lived experience of mental health issues herself, she regularly draws on this when facilitating youth involvement.

Rachel has led young people’s involvement on several projects including the Mental Health National Gallery Audio Tour project.

Rachel Temple, Public Involvement in Research Manager (Youth Involvement Lead)

Davino Beckford

Davino joined the team in May 2020 as a Community Peer Researcher as part of the Black Thrive Lambeth Employment Project. Since then, he has now become a Peer Researcher and a Public Involvement in Research Officer.

Having previously graduated with a BSc in Psychology, his role at McPin combines his passion for better the opportunities and livelihoods of Black and Queer people, particularly those from the most marginalised fringes of society, and systemic change, having worked on multiple projects with that area of focus.

Davino Beckford, Peer Research and Public Involvement in Research Officer

Gillian Samuel

Gillian is passionate about mental health and, for many years, has combined her lived experience with working in this field.

Since joining McPin in 2019 as a Peer researcher, she has developed into a Public Involvement Coordinator and Peer Researcher role.

Working creatively across the England-wide public mental health programme, Gillian is becoming known for initiating new ways of working – including how to build trust with and engage community organizations, best illustrated in the blog ‘Partners Sublime’, encouraging work to be coproduced and findings celebrated.

Gillian Samuel, Public Involvement Coordinator & Peer Researcher

Roya Kamvar

For 7 years, Roya’s research has been people-centred, spanning different sectors including media, social research, and public services. They are experienced in a range of research methods including traditional and innovative, public engagement and citizen science.

At the core of Roya’s lived experience is depression, anxiety, DPDR (De-personalisation and De-realisation) intersecting with neurodivergence and physical health issues.

Roya’s personal research interests include: DPDR, Somatics and Embodiment, Eco-Psychology, and the myriad ways they intersect.

Roya Kamvar, Senior Public Involvement in Research Officer

Emma Garavini

Emma has a background in Psychology (BSc, MSc) and, before joining McPin in 2021, worked on a mental health helpline and as a mental health support worker.

Emma is based in the Young People’s Team and works on several projects ensuring that the voices of young people with lived experience of mental health problems are meaningfully involved in mental health research.

Emma has keen interest in the following research topics; suicide/self-harm, eating disorders, social media and LGBTQ+ mental health.

Emma Garavini, Youth Public Involvement in Research Officer

Sorcha Mahony

Sorcha has worked in research for over 20 years, specialising in qualitative and ethnographic methods to understand the lives of young people and their families living in poverty.

She is passionate about the use of creative writing and storytelling in research and has published two books drawing on this approach (Life in the Debt Trap and Searching for a Better Life).

At McPin Sorcha works on research and evaluation projects exploring mental health, parenting and family life. She has a PhD in social anthropology and is committed to using research to improve policy, services and public attitudes towards marginalised groups.

Sorcha Mahony, Research Manager

Dr Annabel Walsh

Annie holds a PhD Psychiatry and PRINCE II project management accreditation, with postdoctoral research and project management roles at The University of Oxford, NIHR Maudsley BRC and KCL IoPPN.

She has worked on several projects including prediction of antidepressant response, the MQ-funded Identifying Depression Early in Adolescence project, and was Team Lead for the Wellcome Trust Active Ingredients Commission 2021, focusing on the use of technology for depression in young people.

Annie is a strong advocate for involvement of those with lived experience in all aspects of research and is herself a member of several involvement initiatives.

Dr Annabel Walsh, Public Involvement in Research Manager

Thai-Sha Richards

Thai-sha joined McPin in June 2020 as a Young Person co-researcher on the REACH project. Having studied psychology at GCSE and in September with be studying it as an A-level, she has a huge passion for the subject and for mental health, especially between diverse backgrounds. She intends to study psychology at university and then get a PhD. Previously she has done work experience with the REACH study at Kings College University and was part of its Young People’s Advisory Group (YPAG), helping to develop research materials that young people could relate to, for example. As a young black woman from South East London, Thai-sha aims to inform people about mental health and the struggles that black and minoritised ethnic groups have to go through every day, and challenge any stigma that occurs. Other than psychology, she likes to spend time with friends and loved ones, travel to different countries to learn about other cultures, and strengthen her faith.

Thai-sha Richards, Young Person co-researcher
Thai-sha Richards, Young Person co-researcher

Alex Kenny

Alex joined McPin in August 2019 as a Peer Researcher. Prior to this, she sat on a Lay Peer Review panel for the Lancet Psychiatry, reviewing articles prior to publication. She also worked as a Peer Volunteer supporting adults with both physical and mental health difficulties.

Alex enjoys working on projects that have the potential to prevent or improve outcomes for people experiencing mental health problems.

Alex Kenny, PIiR Officer

Ali McClary

Ali has worked in library science, theatre and the arts, and conservation delivering communications strategies and creating content. She has championed person-led storytelling for print and online platforms.

New to the sector, she joined McPin in June 2022 as the communications manager.

Ali has led on several major projects over the last 15 years (large-scale trade shows, magazine redesigns, website projects, company rebrands) but has always returned to her love of helping people tell their stories.

She hopes to draw on her diverse communications background to grow and engage McPin’s audiences.

Ali McClary, Communications Manager

Katherine Lofthouse

Katherine has spent most of the last decade creating features, blogs, tweets, podcasts – and just about anything else that could reasonably constitute content – for a range of organisations. She joined McPin as a Senior Research Communicator in April 2021.

Having worked and volunteered in sectors ranging from sex positivity to tech, social housing and homelessness, Katherine is passionate about empowering people to tell their stories. She hopes to build on this while at McPin, helping to drive positive change in mental health through both established and emerging platforms.

A woman smiling holding a slice of pizza
Katherine Lofthouse, Senior Research Communicator

Daisy Armitage

Daisy joined McPin in 2021 to create content for Mental Health Research Matters, amplifying and supporting the eight UKRI-funded mental health research networks. In October-November 2022 she coordinated a digital #MentalHealthResearchMatters campaign, running online events, social media content, blogs and more.

She developed an interest in mental health research while working as a Content Producer for MQ Mental Health Research.

Before moving into communications, Daisy worked for three years in fundraising for the charity Missing People, supporting marathons runners, community fundraisers and working on direct marketing campaigns.

Daisy Armitage, Senior Digital Communications Coordinator

Naomi Fergus

Naomi joined McPin in 2021, having worked in the NHS for adolescents with Gender Identity Disorder and Autism for several years. During this time she developed an interest in the mental health service for young people living with neurodiversity.

She is a former teacher, where she advocated for and delivered art and textiles workshops as therapy for young people living with anxiety.

Naomi hopes to support McPin’s mission and core values whilst promoting the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

She is also a member of a community support group for parents and carers of children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Naomi Fergus, Operations Support Officer

George Clarke

Prior to joining McPin in 2022, George worked in London as a Covid response officer.

He has an MA in Political Theory and during his studies discovered an interest in continental philosophy and the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan.

George practices and teaches meditation and runs the meditation club at McPin. He has a particular interest in different Buddhist meditation traditions, and ways to distil the techniques of traditional Buddhism for our current times.

He hope this will give people effective ways of managing, and eventually overcoming, mental health conditions such as anxiety, OCD and depression.

George Clarke, Research Administrator

Sue Webster

Sue originally trained as a nurse and has a background in both primary and secondary care.

She also completed an Integrative Counselling Theory degree and is a PPI member of Tees, Esk and Wear Valley Mental Health Trust Involvement and Engagement Team.

Having seen how much of an impact mental health has on physical health, Sue firmly believes there is “no health without mental health”, and now has a great interest in mental health research, particularly after having had a period of depression herself.

She is a Peer Researcher on the WHOLE-SMI study at McPin, looking at how exercise improves mental health – something which she has found firsthand.

Sue Webster, Peer Researcher

Georgia Naughton

Georgia is a Peer Researcher on the Community Navigator2 project, as well as being involved in the young people’s PPI team. She believes it is important, now more than ever, that mental health services for young people are the best and most accessible they can possibly be.

She is excited to work with a team of like-minded people aiming to find out how this can be done for children and young people.

Georgia is really passionate about mental health research and has a Masters in research and experimental psychology.

In her spare time, she really enjoys cooking and baking as well as going to the gym, and got very into running during lockdown.

Georgia Naughton, Co-Researcher for the Blueprint Project
Georgia Naughton, Peer Researcher

Clare Walsby

Since arriving in 2019, Clare has developed her skills to offer everyone at McPin kind, fair and respectful operational and wellbeing support.

Clare finds her work experience in dance, theatre, education and administration to be a helpful and unique platform for working in Ops. Her work at an educational charity for women, where she supported students to overcome their fear of exams and provide equitable spaces for them to achieve, ignited a passion for using admin for good!

Clare really values being part of the team that supports everyone at McPin to do their work and hopes to continue finding ways to improve and provide even better support.

Clare Walsby, Senior Operations Manager