Hearing people’s stories: interviewing with the McPin Foundation

Katherine Barrett describes her experience of working with the McPin Foundation to interview people about experiences of discrimination

I have just been involved in some very interesting research at the McPin Foundation.  I have been a telephone interviewer for the Viewpoint Survey  for two years now and in October 2013 I was invited to take part in a qualitative study using the Viewpoint questionnaire.

The Viewpoint survey is funded by Time to Change and is a stigma survey.  Qualitative telephone interviews were conducted and recorded to collect data with the aim of seeing what kinds of stigma service users suffer from in their daily life.  To do this we asked questions such as, ‘Have you been treated unfairly by your family’, and a wide range of other areas of their lives. These questions produced information about the kinds of stigma experienced by service users.  We recorded telephone interviews which were more in-depth for the qualitative study.

After we had done all the interviews, we met in January, 2014 to develop a coding framework to analyse the data we had collected.  The coding framework was developed by reading the data and pulling out the main themes. We applied the codes to the transcribed data so we could see some of the important stigma issues.  For me the most interesting part of the work was coding the transcripts.

We met again in February, 2014 this time to discuss examples of code disagreement and to help with the analysis of the data.  This time I could really see the development of the contents of the report.

I wanted to get involved in this study to understand service user experiences of stigma and compare them to my own experiences.  Also I wanted to help service users in their recovery journey by talking about things they usually keep hidden.  This has been an excellent experience for me and I have been on a steep learning curve.  Completing this work has helped with my confidence building and recovery.  I feel fulfilled after this great opportunity.

I think it is very important to have experienced mental health issues for doing this work because you can empathise and really understand the participant’s experiences.  You can build rapport and probe to fully understand the situation.  You might ask questions that someone who is not a service user might miss.

The report will be written by Sarah Hamilton and Jess Cotney and they will send us the skeleton of the report in March, 2014 so that we can comment on the contents.  We will also comment on the final report so I feel really involved.

I hope this project will influence future research and interventions to combat stigma.  It will be a resource for service users when it is disseminated.  It will help service users think about the stigma in their life and may make them realise they are not the only ones experiencing these situations.