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Dec
17
2018

Our achievements this year

Vanessa Pinfold

The year seems to have raced away with us! We have been busy in 2018 and I’ve selected a few highlights to share with you.

At the end of November we launched Right People, Right Questions in Parliament. This event was the culmination of two years of work that resulted in a list of most important, unanswered questions that young people and their supporters want researchers to answer about their mental health. Hosted by Charles Walker MP, the launch saw members of our Young People’s Advisory Group and network speak passionately about why each of the Top 10 research priorities had been selected. Now we’ve got the priorities we need to push for researchers to develop quality studies and funders to resource them. You can help us by promoting the Top 10 questions and discussing the topics. None have straight-forward answers.

 

November was a little hectic because as well as the parliamentary launch, we co-hosted an evening of forum theatre with the THIS Institute. Staying true to our co-production values, this is a type of theatre where the audience is asked to influence and act in the performance. The Menagerie Theatre Company worked closely with a number of people from one of our working groups to develop the script and provide a realistic sense of what it is like to live with anxiety and depression. On the day itself, we had a very enjoyable night at the Bridewell  Theatre near Fleet Street in London. When we began, we didn’t really know what to expect but we wanted to get out of our comfort zone as a key aspect of transforming mental health research is challenging ourselves. Working with non-traditional media encourages us to reflect on what types of evidence we need and how to produce useful evidence to change practice, thus bringing us closer to our goal of improving mental health in communities everywhere. The play allowed us to do just that, unpicking how to improve primary care in the NHS by testing out solutions generated by the audience. We hope that this can be the start of further artistic collaborations.

 

Our staff, peer advisors and others who work with us are vital to the McPin Foundation and the work we do. We were very sad to say goodbye to Johanna Frerichs and Lauren Evans but are pleased they are moving on in their careers, and are taking forward peer research methods, patient and public involvement and user-focused research into their new organisations. We have been recruiting new advisors for Lived Experience Advisory Panels, with two new studies starting this year. Next year we will create more peer researcher roles within an evaluation of women-led peer support.

 

Survivor research is a crucial part of mental health research. In the summer, we hosted the launch of a paper by Jasna Russo, on how experiential knowledge can contribute to research surrounding psychiatric drugs, as part of our Talking Point series. In June, team member Jennie Parker and I wrote a Mental Elf blog reflecting on a review paper about the factors that influence service user experiences of diagnosis. We added in some personal reflections which was a little bit of innovation within the blogging process. If you aren’t familiar with Mental Elf, do take a look as it’s an excellent source of the latest research findings in an accessible format.

 

One surprising invitation came from the Department of Health, to attend the Global Ministerial Summit on World Mental Health Day. Dr Thomas Kabir, our Public Involvement in Research Manager, was invited to co-chair a workshop charged with producing recommendations for minsters. The event focused on trauma, lived experience leadership and international collaboration. This blog summarises the recommendations and our reflections.

 

Of course, we wouldn’t have anything to launch or draw on at events without the substantive work of our teams. We are currently involved in different studies, with a variety of roles. Here are a few highlights –

  • A prominent piece of work has been adapting a values framework and developing quality assurance principles for peer support that focuses on peri-natal mental health. The project is in collaboration with Mind and we’ve had fantastic engagement from people up and down the country at our consultation events.
  • Game Change is another project requiring expert input from people with personal experience, this time of psychosis. Led by Professor Daniel Freeman at the University of Oxford, the project is developing a virtual reality programme to help people with psychosis cope in anxiety-provoking situations. McPin has two roles – ensuring expertise by experience guides the research at every step and hosting consultation workshops to design the intervention. Later in the project, peer research methods will be used as part of the evaluation.
  • People with psychosis are also the focus of our work on the Life Stories project. This aims to understand people’s life trajectories before they made contact with early intervention services so we can identify new ways of supporting people. The team completed data collection in the summer and are now in the process of writing up the results.
  • The PARTNERS2 trial got underway, exploring how people with bipolar and schizophrenia could be better supported within primary care. In May, the patient and public involvement work within PARTNERS2 was awarded joint first place at the NIHR Service User Involvement Awards.
  • We continue to develop our training of peer evaluators and in May, delivered sessions to MacMillan Cancer Care volunteers working at hospices in London. The aim of the training was to provide the volunteers with an understanding of co-production research methods for them to use when evaluating their services.
  • We are currently evaluating Open Space in libraries, a voluntary-sector led, financial services and mental health project operating in each of the four nations, as well as a peer coaching service developed by a London NHS Trust, delivered within primary care.

As you can see, work is very varied. I could go on but I will not. In 2019, we hope to deliver impactful work that can make a real difference. We want to work with others to expand the sector, and ensure more studies use peer research methods. Do get in touch with your ideas. We are grateful to everyone for their support.