Professor of Psychology, Harvard University
During her undergraduate degree at Liverpool University Jill took a course on Abnormal Psychology. This sparked a life-long interest in mental disorders and the role that both the brain and the social environment might play in these.
After a year teaching Jill became a research assistant at Cambridge University studying social behaviour in rhesus monkeys. She loved doing research so after two years went to Oxford University to do a D.Phil. This was followed by a tough decision - to go to the Maudsley Hospital in London to train in Clinical Psychology, or to the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She moved to the U.S. and after completing her clinical training accepted a job at Harvard University. She has been a professor there ever since.
“Our current research concerns non-suicidal self-injury. We are trying to understand more about why people intentionally harm themselves using such methods as cutting or burning their skin. In our recent work we have been looking at the role of pain in self-injury and the role it plays in emotion regulation.
People often assume that self-injury is a manipulative behaviour, designed to gain attention. This is not usually the case. I hope people will understand that self-injury is a method people use to try and help themselves feel better when they are in intense emotional pain. If we can reduce the stigma associated with self-injury and have more empathy for people who are struggling emotionally, that will be an important step. We are also working on developing new treatment approaches for self-injury.”
Do you have any favourite memories from your time at CHS?
“One very cold winter, there was a week when, to raise money, Miss Kight and a group of students sold baked potatoes from the window of the (then called) Domestic Science room. Given that school lunches left much to be desired (not greengages again…) that was more wonderful than you can imagine.”